Friday, December 23, 2011

Simple oven-baked stuffing

As in most families, shoving fistfuls of cubed bread and seasonings up the holiday turkey's butt was just the way it was done in my family for as long as I can remember. And we liked it. So several years ago when I first tried cooking stuffing outside the bird, I held my breath in fear that my beloved stuffing might turn out dry or bland. But it didn't. It was perfectly moist and perfectly yummy and everything I wanted stuffing to be. So I've been cooking it separately ever since for lots of good reasons.

Here are 5 reasons I cook the stuffing separately:

1. It's safer. Stuffing cooked inside the turkey could become contaminated with salmonella if the bird is stuffed too early, if the stuffing is left in too long, or if the stuffing doesn't come to a high enough temperature while cooking. Even Health Canada recommends cooking stuffing separately in the oven or on the stove top. And those people know stuff about stuff.
2. An unstuffed bird cooks faster. Leaving a turkey unstuffed means air can circulate inside the bird while cooking, resulting in a shorter cooking time overall. I like shorter cooking times! 
3. An unstuffed bird cooks more evenly. A stuffed turkey cooks from the outside in, while an unstuffed turkey cooks from the outside in AND the inside out. It's all about that air flow and heat distribution.
4. It makes more. Let's be honest, stuffing is one of the yummiest and most popular dishes on the holiday table. Cooking it outside the bird means I'm not limited to the size of the cavity and I can make as much stuffing as I want!
5. It's just as yummy! Made well, a separately cooked stuffing tastes no less delicious than one cooked inside the bird. In fact, I can't tell the difference at all. It's just pure holiday yumminess!

As with most things in the kitchen, I like to keep it super simple. No apples, no nuts, no crans, none of the other bits and bobs that sometimes end up in a stuffing in an attempt to fancy-up what is already a good and simple dish. There's just bread, veg, beautiful seasonings, butter, and stock. Simple, moist and lovely.

Here's how I make it:
makes 8-10 servings

1/2 cup butter
2 cups onion, diced
1 1/2 cups carrot, diced
1 1/2 cups celery, diced
2 tbsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
18 cups bread, cubed (I don't bother drying it out first)
1 1/2 cups stock (I used some turkey stock I had in the freezer, but any stock would do)

While my oven preheated to 350 degrees (F), I melted the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. I added the onions, carrot, and celery and cooked for 8-10 minutes until beginning to soften. Next, I added the poultry seasoning, rosemary, salt and pepper, stirring to coat the veggies and cooking a couple minutes longer. With the pot removed from the heat, I added the bread cubes one half at a time, stirring to evenly distribute the seasonings and veggies. Then I stirred in the stock. The stuffing baked, covered in foil, in a large oven-safe dish for 30 minutes, then uncovered and baked for another 10 minutes.

I like to cook this stuffing the day before our family dinner. It's nice to get some things out of the way beforehand to spread out the kitchen tasks and enjoy our festive family time more.

How do you make your stuffing? What are your family's traditions around the holiday dinner table?


  1. I always cook my stuffing in the turkey. There's just something about the taste and texture that can't be achieved baking the stuffing separately. I figure I've lived this long eating cooked-in-the-bird stuffing, so I'm willing to take my chances! :-)

    A friend gave me the recipe for his super-yummy and super-easy stuffing - bread, onion, sausage, butter, salt & pepper (although I don't think it needs the extra salt). It's soooooo good!

    Merry Christmas!

  2. I tried out this recipe this past weekend. We were having a small chicken and it definitely would not have held enough stuffing! Everyone liked it, and although it doesn't have the texture of in-the-bird, it was far,far better than boxed stuffing and I'll definitely prepare it again.

  3. This was excellent. I added some of my homemade cranberry sauce and a can of mushrooms to it. It was wonderful. I'm never buying the boxed stuffing again.

    1. Yay for homemade! Thanks for the feedback, Meg.

  4. if you cook day before - how do you reheat stuffing?

    1. Just pop it in the oven at 350, covered with foil, until warmed through (about 20-25 minutes).

  5. Thanks people.... good suggestions.... I no longer cook for the large family but have holiday meals at their homes where they do the cooking. I buy sliced freshly rotisserie'd turkey from a place called Harry's Hofbrau, make my own dressing adding a bit of their dressing (which is too soggy for my taste) and baked it. It needs more liquid than when going in the bird as I found out once before the hard way but this dressing came out perfectly. Yes, it has more flavor when baked in the bird, but this was 98% close to it. Thanks again.