Stuffing vs dressing

Stuffing and dressing are two Thanksgiving culinary terms that are often used interchangeably, though technically there is a difference between the two. We will examine the meanings of stuffing and dressing in a culinary sense, where these two terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Stuffing is any mixture that is cooked inside poultry or meat. Usually, stuffing consists of bread or cornbread and vegetables such as celery, onion and fresh parsley, as well as seasonings such as sage or thyme. Other ingredients that may be included are dried cranberries, sausage, pecans, or oysters. The term stuffing was first used in the mid-1500s, a simple description of the act of stuffing the mixture into the cavity of a bird or other meat.

Dressing is any bread mixture that is cooked in a pan and meant as an accompaniment to a meat or poultry dish. The ingredients are generally the same as in stuffing, though the addition of a wet ingredient such as turkey broth is usually necessary. Dressing has a drier consistency than stuffing, which may be quite mushy due to the juices in the poultry or meat. The word dressing came into use during the mid-1850s and became quite popular during Victorian times, due to the indelicate visual conjured up by the word stuffing. Even though the culinary terms stuffing and dressing technically refer to two different preparations of the same dish, the use of the words often varies because of geographical region rather than cooking technique. In the United States, the word stuffing is used more often in the Northeast and Midwest, while the word dressing is used more often in the South.


Of course, dressing is one of those “we always do it this way” dishes — and it goes without saying that down here, it’s always dressing, never stuffing (no matter in what vicinity of the bird it rests). (The Sun Herald)

We asked the instructors for the culinary arts program at Fox Valley Technical College what mistakes to avoid with your stuffing. (The Appleton Post Crescent)

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