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Stuffing vs. dressing: Is there really a difference?


Almost everyone agrees that the traditional mix of spices, bread and other ingredients that's served at Thanksgiving is delicious. 

But when it comes to what to call this yummy dish, people are divided. Is it stuffing, dressing or something else entirely? And does the way it's prepared make a difference in what it's called?

RELATED: 6 easy side dishes anyone can make for Thanksgiving Day

Below, liftestyle experts from Martha Stewart to writers at Southern Living weigh in and take sides in the stuffing vs. dressing debate:

Lifestyle expert Martha Stewart says that although she can't remember anyone in her family actually stuffing the bird, she still calls it stuffing and argues there's no real difference between stuffing and dressing. Of course, she also describes its consistency as somewhere between a pudding and a custard, so Martha may not be the best source for this debate after all.

Southern Living says the difference between stuffing and dressing may come down to whether you say "y’all." Using Google Correlate, the site looked at the which states search for dressing recipes vs. stuffing and found that they don't overlap. If you're in the South, you're very likely to look for dressing recipes. Northern states are the biggest searchers for stuffing recipes. Needless to say, Southern Living declares itself as firmly on Team Dressing.

Reader's digest notes that the National Turkey Federation says the terms are used interchangeably.

Food Network mentions the traditional view of stuffing being cooked inside the bird and notes that both dressing and stuffing have the same ingredients. In a nod to regional differences, the article's author, who's from Michigan, says that her family's table always had several selections of what they called stuffing, although none were stuffed inside the bird.

In a Food & Wine article, Michelle Darrisaw, who grew up in Georgia, remembers having cornbread dressing at her family's table and says that boxed Stove Top stuffing is definitely dressing. When she went to college in Atlanta, she learned that some people – her peers from northern, northeastern or West Coast states – used the term stuffing. To further muddy the water, all her friends from Pennsylvania call it "filling."

Butterball even commissioned an infographic on the matter that shows the difference doesn’t necessarily come down to region.


The verdict

Ultimately, if you're a purist, you may insist that dressing is cooked outside the bird and stuffing is cooked inside of it. If you're a Southerner, you probably call it dressing, no matter how it's prepared. And if you're from outside the South, you'll probably enjoy a serving of stuffing this Thanksgiving.

The following recipes show how to make the dish, cooked inside and outside the bird:

Cornbread Dressing

From: Food Network

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 large Vidalia or Spanish onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¾ cup water
  • 6 cups cubed (1-inch pieces) store-bought or homemade cornbread (about 1 pound)
  • 1/3 cup fresh sage leaves (about 12) with stems removed
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter; add the onions and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring often, until light golden-brown, about 6 to 8 minutes, and remove from the pan to a small plate. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the water, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet and allowing the water to simmer just a couple of minutes to infuse the onion flavor. Remove from the heat.

Put the cornbread in a large mixing bowl.

Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium heat and let it bubble until the milk solids to start to turn golden. Add the sage leaves and briefly fry until they begin to crisp, about 30 seconds. With a slotted spoon, remove sage and put on top of cornbread to drain and crisp. Remove the butter from the heat.

Add the eggs and cooked onions to the cornbread and pour the browned butter over the mixture. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the onion infused water, a tablespoon at a time, gently folding, until cornbread is evenly moistened but not soggy.

Pour the dressing into a 9 by 11-inch baking dish and bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown and the dressing is set in the middle - about 30 minutes.

Roast Turkey with Wild Rice, Sausage and Apple Stuffing

From: Food Network

Ingredients

Stuffing

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cooking apple, such as a Golden Delicious, Gravenstein or Rome, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • Pinch ground mace or nutmeg
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound fresh Italian-style turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley                              Turkey
  • 1 (8 to 10 pound) turkey, fresh or thawed
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Stuffing

Combine the wild rice, water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender and just bursting, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and remove other racks. Preheat to 325 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, apple, celery, garlic, thyme, mace, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in sausage and cook about 5 minutes more. Stir the cooked wild rice, pecans, and parsley into the vegetable mixture. (This can be made the day before.)

Turkey

Remove turkey parts from neck and breast cavities and reserve for other uses, if desired. Dry bird well with paper towels, inside and out. Melt the butter together with the poultry seasoning. Salt and pepper inside the cavity. Loosely add the stuffing to the cavity, set the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, breast-side up, and brush generously with the seasoned butter, then season with salt and pepper. Tent the top of the bird with foil.

Roast the turkey for about 2 hours undisturbed. Remove and discard the foil. Baste with the remaining butter. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees and continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, about 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove turkey from oven and tent with foil for 15 minutes before carving.

Related: More Christmas dinner recipes and food ideas

Recipes for Christmas desserts.


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