Mistakes to Avoid When Making Stuffing (2024)

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Meghan Splawn

Meghan Splawn

Meghan was the Food Editor for Kitchn's Skills content. She's a master of everyday baking, family cooking, and harnessing good light. Meghan approaches food with an eye towards budgeting — both time and money — and having fun. Meghan has a baking and pastry degree, and spent the first 10 years of her career as part of Alton Brown's culinary team. She co-hosts a weekly podcast about food and family called Didn't I Just Feed You.

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published Nov 9, 2015

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Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, this bread casserole is just the sort of food that makes us all feel nostalgic and cozy at the same time. The familiar flavors of stuffing — onion, celery, and herbs wrapped around crispy, chewy bread soaked in a flavorful buttery broth — are well-loved. This classic dish is both easy to make and easy to mess up. So how do you avoid stuffing-related snafus? Watch out for these five major mistakes.

1. Not completely drying out the bread.

The bread is one of the most important ingredients in the stuffing. This is the base; it’s what gives the stuffing structure, and it plays a big role in determining the texture. While you can use almost any bread — cornbread, bagels, or even frozen waffles — to make stuffing, it needs to be dried or “staled” first. Any attempts to make stuffing with soft, fresh baked bread will result in a bread soup with a soggy texture.

Follow this tip: Stale, dried-out bread makes the best stuffing. Either dry out your bread starting a few days before you plan to make the stuffing by letting it sit out or, if you don’t have the extra time, cut the bread into cubes, and then toast over a low heat in the oven until dry.

This tip makes it even faster: The Fastest Way to Cut Bread for Stuffing

2. Not cooking the aromatics.

Because most stuffings bake in a hot oven while the bird rests, you might think that a little chopped onion and celery would bake while the bread bakes, but this is not the case. Whatever aromatics or extras you want to add to your stuffing should be cooked before being baked. This includes the onions and celery in classic stuffing, but also the sausage or nuts that go into cornbread dressing.

Follow this tip: Cook the onions and celery until tender in a bit of butter before building the stuffing. Add the dried herbs to the vegetables for even more flavor.

3. Including too many add-ins.

The add-ins — like vegetables, dried fruit, grains, nuts, and sausage — are the other components that make stuffing special, but this is one time that more is not necessarily merrier. The bread is the binder that holds the stuffing together, and when the add-ins outnumber the binder, it’s tough for the stuffing to stay together.

Follow this tip: Adding the right proportions of ingredients is the key to a stuffing full of good texture, flavor, and consistency. Incorporate all your favorite stuffing add-ins — just not too many. Play it safe by using about twice as much bread as other ingredients, like veggies, dried fruit, grains, nuts, and meat.

4. Over-seasoning the stuffing.

When using items like packaged bread cubes (which often come seasoned), sausage, and store-bought stock or broth, it can be easy to overdo it with the salt.

Follow this tip: If you plan to use packaged bread cubes, sausage, or store-bought stock, you might not need to add any additional salt to the stuffing. To avoid over-seasoning, taste the stuffing before baking it (assuming there’s no raw meat). This will give you a good idea if you actually have to add any additional salt. You can always add more salt, but taking it out is pretty difficult.

5. Using too much (or not enough) liquid.

The key to a good stuffing is using just the right amount of liquid so you get a good contrast of soft and firm pieces. Add too much stock and you’ll find yourself with soggy stuffing. Don’t add enough stock, and you have an overly dry stuffing on your hands.

Follow this tip: Stuffing should be moist, without being soggy or dry. The amount of stock will vary depending on how much stuffing you plan to make. The key is adding a little bit (about a half cup) at a time. Remember, you can always add more. The bread should absorb the liquid without leaving a puddle at the bottom of the dish.

6. Not using broth.

Sure, you could technically make stuffing with just eggs and no broth, but you’d end up with a dish closer to an egg strata than a stuffing. Broth replicates the juices that old-school stuffing accumulated while baking inside the turkey. While we no longer recommend cooking stuffing inside a turkey (more on that below) we still need those juices both for texture and flavor of the final baked stuffing.

Follow this tip: Homemade turkey stock is ideal for making stuffing, but even store-bought vegetable or chicken broth is better than no broth at all.

7. Actually stuffing the bird.

Stuffing gets its name from literally being stuffed into large turkeys or roasts before cooking. While this tradition can make a tasty stuffing and turkey, it can also result in an overcooked bird or an undercooked stuffing. Undercooked stuffing containing eggs or sausage is a food hazard if not cooked correctly, so skip the stuffing and bake your stuffing (or dressing) outside the turkey.

Follow this tip: Assemble the stuffing in advance and bake it while the turkey rests.

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Mistakes to Avoid When Making Stuffing (2024)

FAQs

Mistakes to Avoid When Making Stuffing? ›

The simplest way to tell if your stuffing has gone bad is to sniff it and see if the appearance looks off. “You will know if your stuffing has gone bad if it has a bad odor or there is visible mold growing on it,” Dankosky advises. “It may also taste unpleasant, have a slimy film, or mushy appearance.

How to tell if stuffing is bad? ›

The simplest way to tell if your stuffing has gone bad is to sniff it and see if the appearance looks off. “You will know if your stuffing has gone bad if it has a bad odor or there is visible mold growing on it,” Dankosky advises. “It may also taste unpleasant, have a slimy film, or mushy appearance.

How to know if stuffing is done? ›

A food thermometer should be used to ensure that the stuffing reaches the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. If the stuffing is inside whole poultry, take the poultry out of the oven and let it stand 20 minutes before removing the stuffing. Refrigerate cooked poultry and stuffing within 2 hours.

Why does my stuffing fall apart? ›

The stuffing should be moist but not wet. If there is a puddle of broth at the bottom of the bowl, you've added too much. Add more bread to soak up the excess moisture. If the mix is still dry and crumbly, add more liquid and toss gently until it starts to clump together.

Can you mess up stuffing? ›

Your Bread Is Too Fresh

There's nothing better than soft, fresh bread—except for when it comes to stuffing. If you want your stuffing to hold up and not end up a soupy, soggy mess, make sure your bread is dried out or staled for a few days.

How do you know if your stuffing is moist enough? ›

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.

Why put eggs in stuffing? ›

Broth: Chicken broth keeps the stuffing moist without making it soggy. Eggs: Two lightly beaten eggs help hold the dressing together and add moisture. Water: You can add a few tablespoons of water, if you'd like, to achieve your desired consistency.

Should stuffing be hard or soft? ›

Don't add enough stock, and you have an overly dry stuffing on your hands. Follow this tip: Stuffing should be moist, without being soggy or dry.

Why is my stuffing gummy? ›

If the stuffing came out too wet and soggy (aka bread soup!) try not to over mix it, otherwise it'll turn into mush. Curtis Stone says to pour it on a large sheet tray and spread it out. Bake it on high heat to crisp it up, but make sure it doesn't burn.

Is stove top stuffing bad for you? ›

Like many convenience foods, Stove Top stuffing has gotten a bad rap in recent years, especially from people who have *opinions* about what is healthy to eat. It's got too much sodium, there are weird ingredients that you can't pronounce, and it's just better to make your own stuffing. But “better” is subjective.

Why is stuffing bad? ›

It probably comes as no surprise that stuffing isn't the healthiest addition to your Christmas or Thanksgiving plate, but that's no reason to omit it. Typically high in fat, carbs and salt, stuffing can be made fresh or purchased chilled, frozen or dehydrated.

How to tell if stuffing is done? ›

You need a thermometer. Since you've used the term “stuffing,” we'll assume you're talking about the bread casserole baked inside of a turkey at Thanksgiving in the United States. Since it's cooked inside the turkey, you know that it's done when the internal temperature of the stuffing is 165° F.

Should I leave bread out overnight for stuffing? ›

If you use soft, fresh bread, you'll ultimately wind up with a soggy, mushy stuffing. So, how do you dry bread for stuffing? There are two ways to go about it. If you've planned your Thanksgiving dinner ahead of time, you can cut your bread into cubes and leave them out to become stale overnight.

Why can't you make stuffing ahead of time? ›

You haven't said whether you are going to cook the stuffing inside the bird or out, but it's fine to make almost any stuffing a few hours before you'll need it. The important thing is to keep it properly chilled so that bacteria won't have a chance to grow in it.

Is week old stuffing OK to eat? ›

Stuffing/dressing: If stored properly in the fridge, stuffing or dressing is good to eat up to three to four days after you cooked it. But it'll last about a month in the freezer.

How do you know if stuffing is expired? ›

Although not a perfect test, your senses are usually the most reliable instruments to tell if your stuffing has gone bad. A common trait of bad stuffing is a sour smell, because the meat juices that soaked into the stuffing during cooking will begin to spoil first.

How long is stuffing good for in the fridge? ›

Do not refrigerate uncooked stuffing. If stuffing is prepared ahead of time, it must be either frozen or cooked immediately. To use cooked stuffing later, cool in shallow containers and refrigerate it within 2 hours. Use it within 3 to 4 days.

How long is it safe to eat stuffing? ›

Dressing/stuffing: Like turkey, if stored properly, stuffing or dressing will be safe to eat for three to four days after cooking. It will last for about a month if stored properly in the freezer. Cranberry sauce – homemade and store-bought: Homemade cranberry sauce lasts seven to 10 days.

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