Your Burning Questions

Solutions for Stuffing Slip-Ups

By • November 22, 2014 • 5 Comments

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There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it every day leading up to Thanksgiving to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to help you host the least stressful Thanksgiving yet. No promises on the crazy relatives.

Today: How to achieve the perfect stuffing, even if you encounter a few slip-ups along the way. Tomorrow, we'll talk about the essential numbers you need to know to cook your bird.

Andouille Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing

Many of us look forward to stuffing every Thanksgiving as eagerly as the bird. After all, it's not like we have the opportunity to eat stuffing sandwiches for lunch on a daily basis (although, there's an idea). It's understandable that you want that once-a-year stuffing to garner some serious attention, for the right reasons -- not because it's too dry or overly mushy. We've seen a pattern over the years on the Hotline: In the throes of Thanksgiving prep, last-minute stuffing issues pop up. Thankfully, with each stuffing emergency, a Food52er has come to the rescue. 

The Pros Propose

  • The Modernist Cuisine Team reminds us to stuff a skillet, not a bird: "If you want Thanksgiving to be memorable for all of the right reasons, make your stuffing in separate cookware, like a cast iron skillet. Cooking your stuffing inside of your turkey introduces food safety issues -- because turkeys are so thick, your stuffing will never reach a safe internal temperature. Plus, you’ll miss out on the best part of stuffing: the crispy bits on top."
  • Michael Rulhman says to think about dressing -- the term he sticks with to designate stuffing cooked in a pan -- as just a savory bread pudding. To make a great dressing, he says to start by making the liquid a custard, “the ratio for which is 2 parts liquid and 1 part egg.” The final pièce de résistance? “Before serving, spoon some sizzling hot turkey fat over the dressing to make sure it’s truly succulent.”
  • If you're worried that your stuffing seems like it might be too wet, Merrill Stubbs recommends adding more bread to soak up some of the extra liquid and letting it bake for a few extra minutes in the oven uncovered.
  • Mollie Katzen's backup plan for stuffing glitches can consist of three things: cornbread (having the ingredients for a simple batch on hand), portobello mushrooms, and pomegranates. She explains: "If you find you've made too much stuffing (if there is any such thing), instead of simply heating up the extra and serving it plain on the side, pan-grill the portobellos and stuff them with the extra. If your stuffing doesn't go far enough, make that simple batch of cornbread and crumble it in, moistening, as necessary with stock or bouillon. This treatment will augment your yield and no one will complain. Garnish any stuffing presentation with pomegranate seeds for instant uplift."

Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Bread Stuffing with Apples

Maintaining Moisture 

  • Slip-Up: SandraDee was afraid her stuffing would dry out the next day, and wanted to know how to "emulate stuffing moistness" when reheating leftovers. 
  • Solution: Sdebrango suggests adding either chicken or turkey broth and baking covered to achieve extra moist stuffing, or uncovered if you a prefer crispier top.

Saving Oven Space

  • Slip-Up: Pamela731 wondered if she could cook her stuffing in a slow cooker to save oven space. 
  • Solution: Monita confirms that she can, and recommends cooking it on high for 45 minutes, and then switching to low for 4 to 6 hours.

Prune and Apple Stuffing

Last-Minute Bread Drying

  • Slip-Up: Katie1081 questioned how long it takes to dry challah out.
  • Solution: Overnight will do the trick according to drbabs, but a few days in advance is best, because the drier the better! 
  • Solution: For last-minute drying, meganvt01 puts bread in the oven at 250 to 300° F. (Eds note: it only needs 15 to 20 minutes or so.)

Tell us: How do you get the perfect stuffing?

Have you missed any of our Thanksgiving roundup of Burning Questions? Catch up now:

Photos by James Ransom

Topics: Thanksgiving

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Comments (5)


4 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Incidentally, it's worth mentioning at some point that the quality of the stock makes or breaks the stuffing. I have been putting handfuls of herbs -- fresh sage, rosemary and thyme, as well as parsley stems -- in my make-ahead stock, to make it more stuffing-worthy. Also, it goes without saying that a rich stock (one made with a piece of salty pork charcuterie of some kind) will measurably improve your stuffing. For more information on the latter, please see the stock recipe within this one (which I'll probably post separately, because it's so good for purposes other than just gravy, of course): ;o)


over 1 year ago cddaniel

Can you make stuffing a day in advance and then reheat before serving?


over 1 year ago Elana Carlson

Yes! You may need to add additional broth if the stuffing happened to dry out overnight.


over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Best stuffing tip ever, courtesy of melissav in her ciabatta, sweet potato, chorizo and mushroom stuffing recipe, is to make herbed croutons in the oven to use a base for your stuffing. Absolutely wonderful. Another suggestion -- gleaned in the course of a recent Hotline suggestion -- is boulangere's recommendation to use the Peter Reinhart Wild Rice and Onion bread for making stuffing. I'm making the roasted apple, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts stuffing posted by Gena Hamshaw last year, for which I've made the Reinhart bread. It's extraordinary. I'm going to use it to make croutons, as melissav suggests, which will then soak in the stock with the aromatics for a while before baking. It's going to be good. Really good. ;o)


over 1 year ago Elana Carlson

Thanks AJ!