TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – One of the greatest Thanksgiving debates, other than the preference to pumpkin or apple pie, is whether the seasoned bread crumb side dish that goes alongside the turkey is called “stuffing” or “dressing.”
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of “stuffing” is “a seasoned mixture (as of bread crumbs, vegetables and butter) that is typically placed inside the cavity of a turkey, pepper, etc. and cooked.”
The definition of “dressing” is listed as “a seasoned mixture usually used as a stuffing (as for poultry.)
So what’s the big difference?
According to the Food Network, it’s all about how the side dish is cooked.
The dish being stuffed inside the turkey and roasted inside it helps the bread absorb all the turkey juices and what makes it “stuffing.”
The Food Network notes it does pose a “slight sanitation risk” because of the raw bird.
“If you’re set on serving a traditional stuffing inside the turkey, the bread and the turkey thighs must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F,” the networked noted.
Classic dressings, according to the Food Network, are roasted separately and served alongside the turkey, though the ingredients can be identical to stuffing. Dressings often need extra liquid to make it more flavorful, since it’s not absorbing turkey juices like stuffing.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture advised against stuffing a turkey in its Thanksgiving tips last November, “because it can be a breeding ground for bacteria if not prepared carefully.”
USDA listed tips to stuff a turkey, including keeping wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing separate when preparing it and refrigerating until ready to use, stuffing the turkey loosely and immediately placing the stuffed, raw turkey in an oven set no lower than 325 degree Fahrenheit.
A stuffed turkey should also be left to stand for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing, according to the USDA.
“Many Southerners are die-hard dressing fans, while Northerners tend to prefer simple stuffings, but each family has its own Turkey Day traditions,” Food Network said.
“If you’re a Northerner heading to your Southern in-laws, you should make an effort to call it dressing, and if you’re a Southerner heading up North for Thanksgiving, don’t be surprised if everyone looks at you like you might as well be from Mars for not calling it stuffing,” Southern Living wrote on its website breaking down the differences.