6 Common Stuffing Mistakes to Avoid (2024)

It may seem that turkey is best left in the hands of a pro, that gravy takes finesse, and mashed potatoes need some extra love and care. But one Thanksgiving staple that requires little to no technique? Stuffing. "It's hard to [expletive] up," says test kitchen director Mary-Frances Heck. But is it possible? Definitely. We asked her exactly how, and she gave us a few ways, below.

Start Thanksgiving Day
Trust us: Allow three days for dressing. We promise it's painless. On Tuesday, set out the bread. You'll need day-old loaves to get stale so that the stuffing doesn't get too mushy.

Use a Knife
Don't cube that bread! Ragged, imperfect pieces of bread have more surface area; it's those nooks and crannies that give you good texture.

Add All the Stock at Once

Speaking of texture, that's what stuffing is all about--you want a mix of crispy and soft pieces. We recommend adding stock a little at a time--1/2 cup to 1 cup, depending on how much stuffing you're making--and waiting for the bread to absorb the liquid before adding more. Once the bread is moist but not sitting in a pool of stock, it's ready.

Skimp on the Butter
Thanksgiving is ALL ABOUT BUTTER. This is not the time to use a low-fat recipe. Half of the stuffing's moisture should come from butter--it helps the edges get crispy and gives the stuffing a rich flavor and texture. (We told you texture was important.)

Forget to Take Its Temperature
If you're putting your stuffing in the bird or using egg in your recipe, make sure to check that its temp is at least 165 degrees. That's the food safety magic number.

Put It In the Bird
We know--baking the stuffing inside the bird is traditional. But the result, too often, is soggy and bland stuffing and an overcooked bird (in order for the temperature of the stuffing to get to 165, the bird would get up to 180-190 degrees. Which means dry meat.) Instead, make dressing, which is just stuffing baked in a casserole dish. The crunchy top and edges will yield to a deliciously moist center. Honestly, we could eat just dressing for Thanksgiving dinner and be perfectly OK with it. If we had to. --Mary-Frances Heck and Victoria Granof

6 Common Stuffing Mistakes to Avoid (2024)
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