Solutions for Stuffing Slip-Ups

November 22, 2014

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. 

Andouille Sausage Cornbread Stuffing

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. 

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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 Ruhlman 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 an instant uplift."

Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprout, 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 a 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

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Vicki
  • AntoniaJames
  • cddaniel
  • Elana Carlson
    Elana Carlson
Lactose intolerant cheese lover, who will walk blocks for a good cup of coffee. Recently escaped the corporate world, after discovering her favorite part of the job was ordering catering.


Vicki November 24, 2015
Here is how i do my stuffing. Tear up bread the day before. Put in the top of the turkey pan. Day of the big feast - Chop and cook onion and celery along with spices (I use savoury, sage, thyme, rosemary, poultry seasoning, salt & pepper). When veggies and spices have been cooked (translucent), then pour over the dried torn bread. Cook turkey. When turkey comes out of the oven, put in the roasting pan of stuffing. Cook between 30-45 mins at 325. Yum. You can adjust seasonings to taste. Very very easy. (I usually use 2 loaves of bread, 5-7 onions and 4-5 stalks of celery).
AntoniaJames November 23, 2014
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)
cddaniel November 26, 2013
Can you make stuffing a day in advance and then reheat before serving?
Elana C. November 26, 2013
Yes! You may need to add additional broth if the stuffing happened to dry out overnight.
AntoniaJames November 25, 2013
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)
Elana C. November 27, 2013
Thanks AJ!