Anyone else here think that the stuffing is the best part of Thanksgiving dinner? I love its mix of textures and flavors — crunchy roasted nuts with soft broth-soaked bread and chewy morsels of spiced sausage. Oh mama, that's good stuff! As the self-designated stuffing-maker in our house, I've tweaked and tested my recipe over the years until finally settling on this one easy method.
How To Make Bread Stuffing: Watch the Video
I find that the key to good stuffing is twofold: the proportion of ingredients and the amount of stock used to soak the bread. With the ingredients, you want a little taste of each thing every few bites. For me, this means a healthy cup or so each of nuts, sausage, vegetables, and fruit. The bread binds everything together, so I always pick a good one. Sourdough is my favorite, though one year I used pumpkin bread for a fantastic sweet-savory twist.
I always bake my stuffing separately from the turkey, opting for more control over the cooking rather than tradition. I also like my stuffing fairly moist, like a panade, so I add enough broth to come about 3/4 up the side of the baking dish — this is roughly 3 to 4 cups when baking in a 3-quart casserole dish. If you don't like your stuffing quite so saturated, use less stock.
A few other tricks for great stuffing? Toast the bread until it's completely dry; this helps it to absorb the stock and also hold its shape during cooking. Toast the nuts while you're at it. If you don't like fruit in your stuffing, add extra vegetables instead. You can toast the bread and cook the sausage filling the day ahead to save yourself some time on Thanksgiving, but wait to mix it with the egg or stock until just before cooking.
How do you like your stuffing? Have your own tips or suggestions to share?
How to Make Easy Thanksgiving Stuffing
Serves 8 to 10
What You Need
(1 to 1 1/2 pound) loaf crusty bread
walnuts, almonds, pecans, or other nuts, coarsely chopped
sausage (casings removed), ground beef, ground turkey, or ground chicken
large yellow onion, diced
medium celery stalks, diced
fresh sage, thyme, or oregano leaves, minced
large apples or 1 cup raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit (optional)
1 to 2 teaspoons
large eggs, lightly beaten
2 to 4 cups
low-sodium chicken or turkey broth
rimmed baking sheets
3- or 4-quart baking dish
Toast the bread and nuts. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 350°F. Cut the bread into small cubes, removing the crusts if desired. Divide the cubes between 2 rimmed baking sheets and spread into an even layer. Toast for 10 minutes. Stir the bread cubes and spread back into an even layer. Sprinkle with the chopped nuts. Continue toasting until the bread is completely dry and the nuts are toasted, 8 to 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 400°F.
Cook the sausage. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausage with a sprinkle of salt or other ground meat and cook, breaking it up into crumbles as you cook, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes (see how in this post). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a large bowl and drain off all but a few teaspoons of the fat from the pan.
Cook the vegetables. Add the onions to the same pan, season with salt, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the celery and continue cooking until the celery is softened, about 5 minutes more. Add the fruits, if using, and the fresh herbs. Cook until the apples are just starting to soften, 1 to 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Transfer to the bowl with the meat.
Combine the stuffing ingredients. Add the bread and nuts, eggs, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir until all the ingredients are evenly coated.
Transfer the stuffing to a baking dish. Transfer the stuffing into a 3 to 4-quart baking dish. It's okay if the stuffing is mounded in the middle. If you have leftover stuffing that doesn't quite fit, bake it separately in ramekins.
Add the broth. Pour the broth evenly over the surface of the stuffing. If you prefer your stuffing on the dry side, add 2 to 3 cups of broth; if you like moist stuffing, add 3 to 4 cups.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes.
Uncover and bake until crispy. Uncover the stuffing and continue baking until the top is crispy and golden-brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let cool briefly before serving.
Make-ahead stuffing: This stuffing can be prepared through Step 2 the day ahead. Store the bread cubes at room temperature and refrigerate the sausage filling ingredients separately.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
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(Images: Emma Christensen)