Whether you call it stuffing or dressing you are sure to enjoy this classic sausage herb bread stuffing for you Thanksgiving feast.
Stuffing and dressing are two terms that describe the same dish. Technically, stuffing is a mixture cooked inside the meat. At Thanksgiving, this mixture usually consists of bread in some form, celery, onion, and herbs. Other tweaks include the addition of proteins, nuts, and dried fruits that give each recipe some character.
Dressing is made up of the same ingredients with the addition of some sort of liquid to bind it together since it is cooked separately in the oven. It is drier by nature than the stuffing that has incorporated large quantities of the turkey juices as it cooks.
To make the terms even more confusing, there is a regional bias depending on where you live in the United States, it the Northeast and Midwest, the Thanksgiving side dish is stuffing no matter how it is cooked. While in the South, it is dressing. Use the terminology and cooking method that makes you happy as you prepare your feast.
Food Safety Concerns When the Stuffing is Cooked in Turkey
The dish is the same, it depends on where it is cooked. For food safety, I cook the stuffing, (which technically would then be called dressing) in a pan separate from the turkey. I like the crisp top this creates. The concern with cooking inside the bird is since the turkey juices drip down into the mixture, this mixture must also be brought to 165°F to be safe. Also, there is often a temperature disparity between a cold turkey and warm stuffing packed into the bird. When the turkey is placed in the oven it takes time for the meat to get out of the danger zone, but the stuffing is well with the unsafe temperature zone from the get-go since it was packed into the turkey while still warm. This lets bacteria grow.
Cooling the stuffing before packing it into the turkey doesn’t solve the temperature difference that the stuffing needs to be cooked to, which oven causes overcooked meat. IF you want the stuffing with the added punch of the turkey juices infusing the bread as it cooks, I recommend purchasing some turkey wings and lightly browning them before laying them on top of the dressing as it cooks. This will give you the rich flavor of turkey without having to worry about unsafe food practices. I still like the crisp crust of oven-baked stuffing, so I use turkey stock as the liquid in the stuffing and leave it at that.
Stale bread verse dry bread
Leaving bread pieces out on the counter may make the outside dry and seem hard as a rock, but the insides just get hard. For stuffing, you want the bread dry all the way through so when flavorful liquid is introduced, that is what the bread soaks up like a sponge. To ensure your bread is completely dry, and not just hard, bake the pieces on a baking tray for an hour or so in a 225°-250°F oven. The gentle heat will remove the moisture throughout the bread making it perfect for use in stuffing.
How much bread do you need for Sausage Herb Bread Stuffing?
A typical loaf is about one pound and that will make about 12 cups of bread cubes. But I recommend you use more than one type of bread in your stuffing, so estimate on about 20 slices to come up with 12 cups of bread cubes. Since not every slice is the same size, you will need to measure the cubes to get the correct amount of bread for the recipe.
This technique lets you mix and match your favorite bread to create the base of your side dish. I always use some sourdough bread pieces since I like the tang it brings. Adding whole wheat bread to give the dressing some deep earthy flavors and mix in some sandwich bread or brioche that will soak up the turkey stock like a sponge. Just save the extras and ends of the bread in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and freeze them until I am ready to prepare the stuffing.
Poultry Seasoning is a blend of the traditional herbs and spices of Thanksgiving. Heavy on the dried sage and thyme with rosemary, black pepper, and other spices according to the different brands. I always use Bells Poultry Seasoning since that is the flavor profile I enjoy. It comes in a cute little cardboard box with a colorful turkey on the front. While I rely on the blend to flavor all sorts of dishes at Thanksgiving, it has its place in the cupboard throughout the year. A pinch can be added to soups to ramp up the flavor, or stirred into a wet or dry brine. I even will use it in rubs for chicken when I’m barbecuing.Print
A classic bread stuffing (dressing), complete with celery, onion and herbs, the sausage adds richness to the dish and the top gets crispy as it bakes in a pan.
- 12 cups bread cubes, staled in the oven, (Use a mixture of sourdough, whole grain and other breads to make 12 cups)
- 1 pound sausage, (use country style or Italian sausage as you prefer)
- 2 cups chopped celery, including the leafy tops
- 2 sweet onions, chopped (about 1–3/4 cups)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
- 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon kosher salt, as desired
- 3 cups turkey stock
- Fresh sage leaves for garnish
- On two baking sheets, stale the bread pieces in a 225°-250° F oven for 60 minutes.
- Lightly grease a 9” baking dish that you plan to serve the stuffing in and set aside.
- In a large skillet, brown the sausage over medium heat until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Break up the larger pieces with a spoon so no large chunks of sausage remain.
- Remove the sausage and discard all but 1 tablespoon of meat drippings from the pan. Add 1 cup of chopped onion, 1 cup of chopped celery and the minced garlic to the pan and saute until the onion is translucent. Remove the vegetables from the pan and add to the cooked sausage.
- In a large bowl, combine the staled bread cubes and the sausage together and stir to combine. Add the remaining onion, celery and fresh parsley to the mixture and stir well.
- Add the turkey stock into the skillet where the sausage was cooked and stir over medium heat to deglaze the pan. Add the poultry seasoning, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt to the turkey stock.
- Pour about 2/3 of the warm turkey stock over the bread and sausage mixture and stir to combine. Add the remaining stock as needed to make the stuffing hold together (about the consistency of oatmeal).
- Taste the stuffing and add salt to taste.
- Press the stuffing into the prepared baking dish and clean the edges so the dish will look nice when on the table. Garnish with fresh herbs pressed onto the top of the stuffing
- Bake in a 325°F oven for 45 minutes.
This dish can be prepared and refrigerated for two days before baking.
It can also be baked and then frozen for up to 3 months. Tightly wrap the dish after baking and cooling with foil. Label and place in freezer. Defrost the wrapped dish in the refrigerator for 24 hours and bake (still covered) in a 325°F oven until heated through.
- Serving Size: 4-6 ounces
Keywords: sausage bread stuffing, classic bread dressing