Stuffing! Thanksgiving’s Favorite Side Dish

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By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

What’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving? While some say family and friends, here at Paula’s Test Kitchen, we say our favorite part is the dressing! Forget the pies and turkey for now, and take a moment to find out how to make your best stuffing ever!

To stuff or not to stuff? That is the question.
Some families prefer to stuff their birds with the delicious bready filling, while other bake it off in a casserole dish. This is one of the biggest debates of the season (well, not really, I guess only if you’re a food nerd like us) and this debate even has a good ol’ North versus South argument. Traditionally, Southerners make dressing, which is cooked outside of the bird in a baking dish, while Northerners make stuffing, which is cooked inside of the bird. There are pros and cons of both. Some say that dressing isn’t as moist or doesn’t have as rich as a flavor as stuffing, which gets additional flavor from being cooked inside the bird. To that we say: you’re just not making it right!

In fact, the safest place to bake dressing (or stuffing) is outside of the bird in a baking dish. Juices that may carry bacteria such as salmonella can bake into the stuffing and it’s very hard to “cook out” the bacteria without completely overcooking and drying out your bird. (For those of you that cook the stuffing inside the bird, make sure you cook it until a thermometer reaches 165 degrees once stuck in the center of the stuffing).

Also, another point in the stuffing versus dressing debate, that you’ve probably even noticed yourself just from reading the last few paragraphs, is that these two terms are often used interchangeably. We read in our research that at some point in the 19th century, when the world was a pure and pious place, people started using the word dressing because the term stuffing was considered too vulgar. If they could only hear some of the words we use today!

Follow Paula’s Brilliant Tips for Success
One important lesson Paula has taught all of us here in the test kitchen is that Thanksgiving is not the day for kitchen shortcuts, especially when it comes to preparing Paula’s famous Southern Cornbread Stuffing. But not to worry, advanced planning and preparation will make the big day seem like a breeze and we promise, not one bead of sweat will form on your brow! Make the cornbread and stock the weekend before Thanksgiving, then you can prepare the dressing the night before the feast, and all that’s left is baking it off on Thanksgiving day.

Another essential “Paula-ism” is to always make your own cornbread. Sure, you can buy cornbread crumbles nowadays at almost every grocery store in town, but if you really want to wow your guests, start with this simple recipe.

The next most important step in making a fantastic dressing is making your own stock. Stock is considered the building block of great cooking. It imparts a beautiful and rich flavor that’s all natural. The water takes on the essence, flavor, and body of its ingredients. We promise that by making your own, it will take your dressing to a whole other level. The recipe below should make a big enough batch that you can use it to make your gravy as well.
And our final tip for the big day: good ingredients make for good food. Things are tight everywhere in our country right now but buy the best you can afford on Thanksgiving because your family and friends are worth it.

Here’s our Basic Chicken Stock Recipe:
Yields 2 quarts

4 1/2 pounds wings, backs, and necks from uncooked chickens
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped into quarters
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 medium stalks of celery, chopped into 1 inch pieces
8 sprigs parsley
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 dried bay leaves
4 1/2 quarts cold water

Rinse chicken under cold water and add the chicken parts to a large heavy bottomed stockpot. Add cold water to cover chicken. Bring the water slowly to a boil then reduce to a bare simmer. There should be very few gentle bubbles bursting on the surface of the water. Skim the surface of the stock to get rid of the impurities.

Add the onions, carrots, celery, parsley, peppercorns, and bay leaves to the pot. Continue to simmer the stock for 3 hours, skimming occasionally.

Strain the stock through a paper towel lined colander into a large bowl. Carefully discard the hot solids. Let cool. Place in refrigerator for 12 hours to allow fat to rise to the top. Skim fat off and discard. Divide between freezer safe containers. Freeze for up to 3 months.

So, what do you call it, dressing or stuffing? Which will you make for your friends and family this year? Let us know below in the comments!

Get 6 Super Stuffing Recipes Here!

Read More From Holidays and Entertaining.

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Reader Comments:


We want you back. Sweet Paula

By John Cramer on November 27, 2013


We are moving back to America (Loudon,Tennessee to be exact) next year, so I have missed watching your shows the past 3 years. Hope they are back on by the time I get there.

By Lynda McEwan on November 26, 2013


If you stuff a bird, it is stuffing. If you do not put it in the bird it is dressing...Good both ways....

By Marilyn Boutwell on November 26, 2013


I have to Make both to satisfy the many tastes at the table but cornbread dressing is best by far

By karla on November 26, 2013


Stuffing is when it is baked in the bird and as a casserole, it is dressing. Love y'all!

By Shurley Clingler on November 26, 2013


Love your recipes, and Love you Paula xoxoxoxo

By Dolores martinez on November 26, 2013


It's not been the same without seeing you on tv.. It helped me to "think" that I knew you and your boys personally .. Regardless, life is a wonderful adventure of The Lord.. He works out every detail of our lives.. And makes us so happy! God bless you all dear Paula, love ..your sister in TN..Linda💜

By Linda King on November 26, 2013


I make dressing. This is the way I was taught by my Mother and Grandmother. I prefer homemade bread croutons. I d not care for conrbread dressing. I guess it is just what you grow up with. My in-laws always wanted oyster dressing. This is NOT my kind of dressing! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

By Anonymous on November 26, 2013


I'll make staffing.

By Marcia Holliman on November 26, 2013


I miss seeing you on television. I always enjoyed watching you. Hope to see you back very soon.

By Helene Phillips on November 25, 2013


I love dressing it is the best. I use a lot of your recipe books Paula and everything I have tried so far has been delish, I have 5 cook books and I just love to look at the recipes and figure out what I will try next.

By Kathryn Kendrick on November 25, 2013


My favorite is dressing and it is delish.

By Kathryn kendrick on November 25, 2013


Good article. I agree with all of it. Raised in KY, by Mississippi parents, live in FL. I get the "SOUTHERN" thing!! ha!

By suzanne smith on November 25, 2013


Love your dishes though not like my moms; love you Ms paula; I watch your sons also;;

By Millie Grindstaff on November 25, 2013


I miss your show, hope it will come back soon. In the meantime I have signed up for your newsletter. Hurry back!

By ReneeZ on November 15, 2013


The cornbread stuffing is Fabulous! I am blessed with your recipes, they make me such a better cook! I so look forward to your email newsletter and have given my family BIG hints about your cookbooks that I want! God Bless you And keep cooking!

By Fiona on November 15, 2013


Food Network is not the same without your show.I watch Jamie and Bobby and love it when they have you on.Hope to see your show back on soon.

By Martha Hyde on November 15, 2013



By Linda McCallister on November 09, 2013


Dear Paula, Last summer my family and I had the pleasure of eating at the Lady and Sons in Savannah. I absolutely loved the sweet potatoes in the buffet, and would love to know how they were made. Everything was wonderful!

By Diane on November 08, 2013


Last summer we had the pleasure of eating at your restaurant in Savannah. I loved everything, but especially the sweet potatoes in the buffet. I would love to know how you make your sweet potatoes?

By Diane on November 08, 2013

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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm