Stuffing (often also referred to as dressing) is arguably one of the highlights of Thanksgiving. This classic side is usually made once a year, so it better deliver. Although stuffing has been a member of the Thanksgiving table since the 19th century, other variations of the traditional dish have popped up, like dressing. But what exactly is the difference between the two?
What’s the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?
In 2019, the terms stuffing and dressing are basically interchangeable, with one key difference: Stuffing is cooked inside a turkey, while dressing is made in a casserole dish. But lately cooks are swapping the usual stuffing for dressing for a few reasons. While the USDA says it’s OK to cook stuffing inside your bird, it’s crucial that it’s cooked to the right temperature (165˚F), or you run the risk of contaminating it. In addition to safety, stuffing can run the risk of becoming too soggy inside the bird.
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Dressing, on the other hand, is aesthetically more pleasing because it’s prepared in a pan, has a better texture (and some would say flavor), and if you have vegetarian or vegan friends at your table, it’s easy to make it veg-friendly.
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Using Day-Old Bread is Best for Dressing
Dressing is one of the few dishes where using day-old bread is preferable. Fresh bread will get too saturated from the stock, resulting in a soggy dressing. If you forgot to leave bread out on the counter (it’s Thanksgiving, it happens!), it’s easy to dry out in under half an hour. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and bake roughly torn pieces of bread on a sheet tray for about 25-30 minutes until the bread is lightly golden and dried out. This method works for all types of bread, including sourdough, challah, brioche, and even cornbread.
The Key to Brown Butter
Many chefs call brown butter liquid gold. It’s got a nutty, caramelized flavor that can transform sweet or savory dishes to have more depth of flavor. The process goes fast, so don’t step away from the stove! For this recipe, wait until the butter turns a pale golden brown—that’s how you’ll know it’s ready to be incorporated into the dressing.
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Brown Butter Herb and Walnut Dressing Recipe
Herb dressing is fairly traditional, but this version takes the flavor up a notch thanks to nutty brown butter, a handful of fresh herbs, and lots of garlic. Click the link below for the recipe.
Header image courtesy of Alexis deBoschnek.