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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.

Simple Oven-Baked Stuffing
makes 8-10 servings

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
2 cups (500 mL) diced yellow onions
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) peeled and diced carrots

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) diced celery
2 tbsp (30 mL) poultry seasoning
2 tsp (10 mL) dried rosemary (or 2 tbsp/30 mL chopped fresh rosemary)
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper
18 cups (4.5 L) white or brown sandwich bread, cubed (no need to dry it out first)

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) chicken or turkey stock
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F)/180 degrees (C).

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until beginning to soften. Stir in the poultry seasoning, rosemary, salt, and pepper, stirring to coat the veggies. Continue cooking a couple minutes longer. Remove from the heat. 

Add the bread cubes one half at a time, stirring to evenly distribute the seasonings and veggies. Pour in the stock, stirring just to moisten. Transfer to a large baking dish. Cover in foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes. Serve immediately or, if making ahead, cool and refrigerate covered then reheat before serving.
How do you make your stuffing? What are your family's traditions around the holiday dinner table?