I don't know about you, but the stuffing is my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, you can make the argument that turkey is the star of the show, but I'll take extra stuffing over extra turkey any day of the week.
That being said, it has to be good stuffing. You'd think that something consisting of mainly bread would always have to be good, but there are a few different ways to mess it up. Here are the most common mistakes people make when cooking stuffing...or dressing...whatever you want to call it!
1. Using The Wrong Flavored Bread
You may not put a lot of thought into what bread you're using for stuffing, in fact you may just be using whatever you have left on the counter. But choosing the proper bread is key to a good stuffing. Depending on your preferred spice mix for the classic dish, you should be using a bread that complements those flavors. A good rye bread is never a bad idea, and neither is an egg bread.
2. Not Using Enough Binder
The last thing you want is stuffing that's all crumbly. You need to make sure you're using enough liquid to bind all the bread with the mix-ins, but be careful you don't overdo it. You don't want a soggy stuffing. That's not pleasant.
A general rule of thumb is to add one cup of liquid for every four cups of dried bread. In the end, though, it's all up to the eye test. If it looks too dry, add some more.
3. Cooking It In The Turkey
Alright, don't hate me on this one. I know most people have the tradition of cooking the stuffing inside the turkey, but there are two outcomes that tend to happen this way.
The first outcome is that you overcook your turkey because you're waiting for the stuffing to cook. Even though personally I think stuffing is the star of the show, screwing up the turkey isn't a great plan.
And if you don't end up overcooking the turkey, then you're undercooking the stuffing. This can actually end up being dangerous, because the stuffing has absorbed all the juices from the turkey and if it's not fully cooked, you're essentially consuming raw turkey juice. Gross.
4. Not Using Dry Bread
While you may not want stale bread for your sandwich, you definitely want it for your stuffing. Drying bread acts as a sponge, soaking up all the liquid you add to it. This in turn adds flavor to the bread and makes it super yummy.
5. Using Raw Veggies
Veggies are a staple in stuffing, that's a given, but too many people throw the raw veggies in with the bread and let them all cook at the same time. Soaked bread and raw veggies don't cook at the same pace...they just don't.
Make sure you cook your veggies before adding them to the stuffing mixture and throwing it all in the oven. If you like your veggies still a little bit crunchy, cook them for a little bit less time before throwing them in the dish.
6. Overcooking It
Stuffing should still be moist, not crunchy. A crisp top? Absolutely. But a good stuffing is still spongy and moist when it comes out of the oven. If you're cooking your stuffing in a shallow dish, make sure you keep an eye on it because it can dry out quickly.
7. Not Using Enough Butter
Listen. It's the holidays. No one is expecting you to eat healthy. USE. MORE. BUTTER. Butter helps crisp up the top of the stuffing while keeping everything else nice and moist. If you're wondering if you should use more butter...the answer is probably yes.
8. Adding Stock All At Once
You should be adding your stock gradually so that you know you're adding enough, and not too much. Add some, let the bread sit in it for a minute, and then see if you need more. The bread should be soaked through, but there shouldn't be a puddle of stock sitting at the bottom of the bowl.
9. Going Overboard With Mix-Ins
It's stuffing, not a stew. Bread should be the star of the show. Adding too many mix-ins makes things too complicated and confusing. Sausage, veggies, raisins...where are my taste buds supposed to focus?
Keep it simple, and if you really can't decide which mix-ins to use, make a plain base for your stuffing, then separate it into different bowls. That way you can make a few different varieties of stuffing and make sure they're all delicious.
10. Not Jeuging Up Boxed Mixes
There is absolutely no shame in using a boxed stuffing mix, but you shouldn't just be following the directions on the box. Add some chicken stock instead of water, throw in a few extra spices, do something that will make it a little bit more than a boxed mix. Trust me, it's worth it.