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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.
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."
- 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.
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:
- The Definitive Pounds-Per-Person Guide to Turkey and Potatoes
- Everything You Need to Know About Brining
- How to Accommodate Guests with Special Diets and Stay Sane
Photos by James Ransom