Okay, maybe “ruin” is a bit dramatic, but that doesn’t mean you and your guests won’t be disappointed with dry or less-than-stellar stuffing. This classic Thanksgiving dinner dish — with its familiar flavors of onion, celery, and herbs mixing with crispy, chewy, buttery bread — is well-loved, but it’s also easy to mess up, so be sure to avoid these 8 common stuffing mistakes:
1. You make it on Thanksgiving Day
Don’t wait until Thanksgiving day to start your stuffing. Your bread base — whether it’s a bread loaf, cornbread, bagels or even waffles — needs to be dry and stale, so let it sit out for at least a day or two before you begin. If your bread is still moist, your stuffing will be soggy.
2. You try to save calories
If you’re looking to keep your Thanksgiving meal within a certain calorie count, perhaps you could cut back on alcohol or appetizers, but stuffing? Never! If you try to cut back on calories in your stuffing by reducing the amount of butter or using some low calorie oddball bread, you will sacrifice flavor. You probably only make stuffing once a year — why not go all-in?
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3. You don’t sauté your extras first
If you use raw veggies in your stuffing you’re missing out on a big opportunity for flavor. Sautéing them in butter will help season and soften them before you mix them in with the bread. Likewise, any extras like sausage or nuts, should be cooked or toasted first before being mixed in.
4. You over-salt the stuffing
Watch out for packaged bread cubes, sausage, and store-bought broth. Each will likely come pre-seasoned (unless you look for an unseasoned version), so it’s easy to overdo it with the salt and other seasonings. Remember, it’s always easy to add more salt, but it’s pretty difficult to reduce it. If your recipe doesn’t have raw meat or raw eggs in it, give it a taste right before you put it in the oven. That way you can get a good idea if you need to add more salt.
5. You use too much stock
Using the right amount of stock or broth is the key to the perfect stuffing. Too much and you’ll make bread soup. Not enough and you’ll have a dish of dry croutons. Broth replicates the juices we used to get from cooking stuffing in the bird (see #6) and it’s necessary to add-in if you want to replicate that old school texture and flavor.
The amount of broth will vary depending on how much stock you’re making, but the trick is to add about a half cup at a time. The bread should absorb the liquid without leaving a puddle at the bottom. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out, so proceed with caution, adding a little at a time, and you’ll get it perfect.
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6. You cook it in the turkey
Yes, I know. Your grandma did it, and her grandma did it, and the Pilgrims did it, and blah blah. Well, life spans have extended since your granny’s heyday, in no small part because we understand bacteria better. When you cook stuffing inside of a turkey, it soaks up all of those juices of the bird. Sounds yummy, but if that stuffing doesn’t reach 165º, you’re exposing yourself to potential harmful bird bacteria. On the other hand, if your stuffing does reach 165º — like it needs to — by then your exterior turkey meat is overcooked and less-than-tasty. Bake the stuffing on the side and you can have both scrumptious stuffing and tasty turkey.
7. You forget to take the temperature
Whether you make the mistake of cooking the stuffing in the bird, or you make dressing in a separate baking dish, it’s important to gauge the temperature of your stuffing (because egg is often included). Internal temperature should reach 165º.
8. You don’t make enough
Everyone LOVES stuffing. And stuffing leftovers never go to waste. Don’t make the mistake of not making enough.
Store your Thanksgiving leftovers in this easy SnapLock container set. Full disclosure: we receive proceeds from the sell of products, but that allows us to bring you even more mouth-watering content. Thanks for your support!