Eager faces and hungry stomachs gather around the dinner table on Thanksgiving, eager for turkey and extra servings of stuffing. Stuffing, a mixture of chopped vegetables, seasonings, and bread crumbs, is a longtime favorite side dish to turkey dinners. Also known as dressing, it is served in a multitude of different varieties, ranging from herb flavored to oyster based and even fruit infused.
No one really knows when or where stuffing began. One widely circulated story revolves around the reason for it in the first place: poultry and other wild game whose cavities have been cleaned and gutted need something inside in order to retain its shape. Early cooks stuffed their birds with whole vegetables before discovering a combination of stale bread and chopped vegetables. When cooked, juices from the meat would flavor the breadcrumbs and an additional dish was created.
Another story widely circulated about stuffing history involves the marketing techniques employed by the Kraft Company in 1972. Stove Top® stuffing, a brand owned by Kraft, was introduced as a boxed stuffing that kitchen cooks could make in minutes. The marketing campaign used to sell Stove Top® involved the idea that this side dish was essential to a Thanksgiving meal. Many attribute this campaign as the reason why Stove Top® is one of the most popular food items sold during the holiday.
Stuffing is typically made by combining herbs, spices, chopped vegetables, and breadcrumbs. It can roast inside a bird cavity or be cooked on the stove top. Most recipes call for the addition of liquid, such as chicken broth or stock, while other recipes rely on actual pan drippings. Stuffing is not just used to accompany poultry, but other meats, such as beef and pork. It is sometimes seen tied into a roulade or wedged into the side of thick pork chops.
Every year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises home cooks to take certain precautions when preparing a meal with stuffing. In addition to healthy sanitation practices, if it is used inside meat or poultry, it is recommended that the stuffing’s internal cooking temperature reach at least 165°F (71.1°C). If made separately from meat, it is also recommended that the cooked dressing does not come in contact with raw meat or its juices.