Dressing & Stuffing

Dressing & Stuffing

I get asked this question every year about this time, “what’s the difference between dressing and stuffing?” The answer is that if you live north of the Mason-Dixon line, you probably call this side dish, baked inside a turkey, stuffing. If you’re a Southerner, you probably call it dressing. In classic cooking, it’s called forcemeat. Until Victorian times it was just called stuffing and then all of a sudden “stuffing” seemed indecent, and “dressing” was the new name.

For many years roast turkey meant stuffed turkey. Then all of a sudden health concerns arose about whether or not stuffed birds were safe. While these concerns are real, they shouldn’t affect careful cooks who follow food safety practices. Here are a few simple rules to follow while stuffing your bird.

Stuffing should always be cooked to at least 160 degrees in order to kill any potentially harmful bacteria. When the turkey is done, insert the meat thermometer deep into the center of the body cavity to check the temperature of the stuffing. If it isn’t at least 160 degrees then scoop the stuffing out of the cavity and transfer to a casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees until the stuffing reaches 160 degrees.

Always prepare your stuffing just before filling and roasting the turkey. NEVER stuff a bird the night before roasting as the turkey cavity provides a warm, moist environment that encourages bacterial growth. To save time on Thanksgiving morning, you can prepare stuffing ingredients the night before. Chop the vegetables, toast the nuts, etc. and then store them in zip lock bags in the refrigerator. If you are super pressed for time you may cook, cool, and refrigerate the seasoning meat and vegetables the night before. Reheat them thoroughly in a large-size skillet before adding to the bread or grains.

Stuffing should be warm when placed in the turkey. Cold stuffing may not cook to 160 degrees by the time the turkey is ready.

NEVER mix raw meat or vegetables into a stuffing. All meat and vegetables should be thoroughly cooked.

To serve the stuffing, remove it from the turkey and place in a serving bowl. Do not allow the stuffing or turkey to stand at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Refrigerate any leftover stuffing separately from the turkey and use within 2 days. Reheat leftover stuffing thoroughly before serving.

“Work With What You Got!”

© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

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