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In many homes, the words “stuffing” and “dressing” are used interchangeably to reference that steamy mixture of bread, veggies and herbs that takes second seat next to the turkey at your Thanksgiving table. Though for some, the loyalty to either stuffing or dressing over the other runs deep. But is there really a difference between stuffing and dressing? Which elements of the dishes dictate their classification as one and not the other? How should you cook the stuffing or dressing to ensure that it’s served piping hot and moist and has a subtle, crisp top? We have the answers, plus four foolproof recipes that will steal the side dish show at your Thanksgiving dinner.
Simply Stuffed: As its name suggests, stuffing is traditionally stuffed into the cavity of the turkey and roasted inside of it. Though this cooking method allows the bread to absorb all of those tasty turkey juices, it also poses a slight sanitation risk because of the raw bird. If you’re set on serving a traditional stuffing inside the turkey, the bread and the turkey thighs must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F.
All Dressed Up: Classic dressings are most often roasted separately from and served alongside the turkey, not inside of it, though their ingredients can be identical to stuffings’. Because there’s no concern of cross-contamination when preparing unstuffed dressing, there’s no minimum cooking temperature that must be reached. If you want your dressing to boast a bit of crunch, roast it uncovered for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking to crisp the top layer of bread.
Location, Location, Location: Many Southerners are die-hard dressing fans, while Northerners tend to prefer simple stuffings, but each family has its own Turkey Day traditions. At my Thanksgiving table in Michigan, all of the (many, many) selections served are called stuffing though none are actually stuffed inside the bird.
Check out one of our classic and creative stuffing and dressing recipes below, then join the conversation: Tell us whether your family sides with stuffing or dressing and how you prepare this Thanksgiving favorite.
Alton’s Oyster Dressing from Food Network Magazine is an easy-to-prepare side dish featuring homemade cornbread, fragrant herbs and oysters.
Food.com’s Pecan-Sage Dressing recipe features finely ground stale bread, in addition to chopped vegetables, herbs and a sprinkle of sage. Baked for just 40 minutes, this roasted dressing is a quick, family-friendly favorite.
For an easy stuffing pick that requires just 20 minutes of prep time, try this Sausage and Apple Stuffing recipe from Food 2. In-season apples, pork sausage, crunchy walnuts and fresh vegetables are quickly sautéed, combined with a cornbread stuffing mix and stuffed into the turkey before roasting.
Made with buttery panettone, dried fruit and fresh sage, Michael Chiarello’s sweet and savory Panettone Stuffing (pictured above) sings with warm, fragrant flavors. Look for panettone, an indulgent Italian bread that is studded with golden raisins and traditionally served during the holidays, at your local specialty supermarket.
Visit Food Network for more Thanksgiving tips and recipes.