Photo: Brent Hofacker (Shutterstock)
Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, the broth-soaked bread dish is a Thanksgiving must-have. Though it’s not advisable to stuff the turkey with anything, it’s commonly agreed upon that “dressing” is always made with cornbread, and “stuffing” is usually made with a white bread of some kind—usually sandwich bread. But no matter what kind of bread you start with, it has to be ready to receive liquid, and that is accomplished by either drying or staling. A lot of recipes recommend you stale your bread rather than dry it, but I think fully-dried bread gives your stuffing a better texture (and it takes less time).
What’s the difference between drying and staling?
Drying is the simple act of removing as much moisture as you can from your bread, usually in a low-temp oven, resulting in cracker-y, crispy cubes. Staling is a little different: Moisture does evaporate, but it also migrates from swollen starch granules into the airy spaces in the crumb and into the bread’s crust. Those starches then realign and recrystallize without the moisture, resulting in bread that is dry, but not crisp. Instead of crispy little cubes, you get leathery, chewy pieces that are less able to absorb broth, which is not what I personally want in my favorite bread-based side dish.
How to dry your bread for stuffing
Luckily, drying your bread is much faster than staling it (which takes a few days), so you don’t have to worry about “forgetting to stale the bread” and can focus on “forgetting to take the turkey out of the freezer.”
Start by cubing your bread into bite-size pieces, then dry in a 275℉ oven for 45 minutes, tossing with a spatula every 10-15 minutes to encourage even drying. According to Serious Eats, this technique gives “about two and a half pounds of bread” the ability “to absorb a whopping four cups of rich and savory chicken or turkey broth.” Creating a bread cube that can absorb a bunch of broth is the entire point, so I’d call this a “good method” and “what I will be doing from here on out.”