This is a big debate with regional division. Its long and controversial history includes a salmonella outbreak and Victorian nobles getting a word out of it. There are many gray areas and the distinction can become very personal. Even the CDC has ideas, and it all leads to a lot of shouting at each other at Thanksgiving parties.
No, we’re not talking about politics. (Remember when it was a faux pas to bring it up at family dinners?) Instead, we’re referring to what we should call the Thanksgiving side dish of bread, herbs, vegetables and maybe meat. Is it stuffing or dressing?
“The age-old vacation debate vinaigrette or stuffing is an eternal conversation heard every year on tables across the country during the holidays,” says Rolf Weithofer, the executive chef of The Adolphus in Dallas. “These are the perfect kind of arguments to have with friends and family around the holidays – both harmless and delicious,” he says.
Still, everyone likes to win a good argument. Which side of the stuffing or dressing debate are you on, and is it the right one? We asked food experts to settle the score once and for all.
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What is stuffing?
The stuffing versus dressing debate may seem complicated, but the definition of stuffing is simple. “Stuffing is a mixture of ingredients traditionally placed inside the cavity,” explains Heidi Diestel, fourth-generation family farmer and co-owner of Diestel Family Ranch. “This stuffs the bird and the flavors of the stuffing are enhanced as the turkey cooks.”
The word prank has had a negative connotation over the years. In the 1800s, Victorian nobles deemed it offensive, giving rise to the word “dress up.” Stuffing has also been linked to an increased risk of salmonella, which Eric Dreyerthe executive chef of Monarch restaurant in Dallas, says it also caused confusion.
In fact, even the CDC recommends cooking the “stuffing” on the outside of the bird. The CDC advises everyone to “use a thermometer to ensure the center of the stuffing reaches 165°F” whether the bread mixture is cooked inside or outside the bird.
OK, wait, CDC, if it’s cooked on the outside of the bird, is the stuffing really stuffed?
What is dressing?
The term vinaigrette emerged in the 1800s, when well-off Victorians decided that “stuffing” was a faux pas. However, chefs say vinaigrette has taken on a definition of its own.
“Dressing is usually a wetter mixture cooked in a side dish, on the outside of the bird,” says Diestel. “Many traditional recipes use cornbread mixes and are cooked in a Dutch oven.”
Dressing and stuffing, are they the same thing?
There’s actually nothing offensive about using the words “dress” and “stuff” interchangeably (unless you have people at the table who are VERY passionate about the topic), but it’s not not really the same thing.
“The stuffing is made for the inside of the bird,” Diestel explains. “The dressing is cooked on the outside. The dressing is denser.”
However, the two dishes have one very important similarity. “They’re both delicious with cranberry sauce,” says Weithofer.
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Do Southerners say vinaigrette or stuffing?
Experts and data indicate that Southerners favor the term “dressing room.” “Southern states are interested in clothing terminology,” says Diestel.
Diestel has the numbers on its side. A Butterball Survey 2015 reported that most Southerners used the term “dressing”, while people from the Pacific Northwest and Northeast were more likely to use the word “stuffing”.
If you’re a Northerner like me, you might refer to “dressing” as something that goes with a salad. Apparently I missed something.
“If you grew up with delicious holiday dressing, you might think of it before salad when you see the word vinaigrette,” Weithofer told me. “Saladdress is a comfort food, and the holidays don’t seem complete without it for most Southerners.”
If you really want to get into the weeds, take a jog to social media star and Southerner Landon Bryant’s Instagram feed. He slices and dices this discussion into even more delicious parts, including cornbread dressing versus salad dressing and whether oyster dressing is its own uniqueness. As he says: “Let’s talk about it.”
Related: Top Chef-Approved Two-Loaf Stuffing
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Which is better: stuffing or dressing?
It’s a matter of personal taste, but the experts we spoke with shared what was on their Thanksgiving tables. “I prank because my mother told me to,” Dreyer says.
Fair enough. Diestel also referenced family ties in disclosing his choice.
“The Diestels are executioners,” says Diestels. “We stuff our bird, but, if you can believe it, we have a salad dressing recipe that is over 100 years old using cornbread that we also make in a Dutch oven every year.”
Oh, we can believe it. After all, as Diestel says, “You can never have too much food at Thanksgiving.” Plus, the stuffing and dressing taste amazing on leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. »