As a child, I counted the days to Thanksgiving. You don’t have to tell me this is unusual.
As far as holidays go, most kids would agree Christmas is the best, with its presents, cookies, and long break from school. Shopping malls and radio stations also rush to December, bringing out music and promotions just after Halloween.
But, in this holiday’s defense, I offer one word: turkey.
Before I was old enough to know how the bird was cooked, I understood that slicing the crispy brown skin of one fresh from the oven would reveal white, tender meat perfect for a week’s worth of sandwiches.
Coupled with all the trimmings, Thanksgiving turkey makes a meal worth anticipating. And this year, for the first time, I’d be the one making it.
The star of our feast was an eight-pound turkey breast (because we prefer white meat, and because we’d be out of town, so smaller would be easier) filled with my grandma’s recipe for moist bread stuffing. It’s the most delicious thing I eat every year, and so easy to make.
Once you’ve made this recipe, it’s going to be hard not to run head-first into the StoveTop grocery aisle, grabbing the arms of unsuspecting shoppers, tossing their boxes on the floor, shouting that it’s for their own good.
From my lovely grandma, Caroline, who taught me to bake.
- 1 1/2 cups butter 3 sticks
- 1 cup diced onions
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1 cup diced celery
- 3 cups chicken broth about a 32 oz container of stock
- 3 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 3/4 teaspoon pepper
- 24 cups dried bread cubes
- In a large skillet, cook butter, onions, parsley, and celery over medium-low heat.
- After a while, the mixture will begin to bubble; add the chicken broth. Bring it back to a boil, and add the seasonings and stir.
- Remove from heat, let cool just a bit and pour the still-warm mixture over the bowl of bread cubes. Stir it around, using your hands if necessary, to thoroughly coat each piece of bread.
*If you are using store bought chicken stock, you may want to hold off adding any additional salt until the end. Commercial chicken stock contains lots of added sodium.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep the Bread
When you make my grandma’s turkey stuffing, the first thing you must have is bread.
Note: If you’re cooking a small bird, or just a breast, you’ll halve her recipe, and so you’ll need a total of 12 cups of bread cubes instead of the 24 called for in the recipe above.
Any loaf will work, but dry, crusty bread is particularly good for soaking up the stock and juices, and it’s a great way to make use of day-old bread.
Cut your bread into chunks using a good bread knife and leave on a cooling rack overnight to harden.
Step 2 – Mise en Place
Gather all of your ingredients into one spot and chop up your veggies on a cutting board using a good chef’s knife.
Place all of your breadcrumbs into an extra large mixing bowl, or a large mixing bowl for a half batch.
Step 3 – Prepare the Liquids
Start by sautéing butter, diced onions, chopped parsley, and chopped celery in a large frying pan (preferably a deep dished one with a helper handle) on medium heat. Leave it like this for a while.
This was where I did some dishes, wiped down the countertops, and had another bite of breakfast. You’ll choose your own distractions.
As you go about your business, a buttery fragrance wafts, slow and strong, through the room, heady with cooking onions. The pan will sizzle, bubbles popping and appearing amidst simmering juices.
Stir the mixture around, and you’ll find the ingredients limp, like your arms when you’re dreaming deeply or tulips that are past their prime. At this point, add salt, pepper, and a bit of poultry seasoning; then pour in chicken broth.
Stir it together, and let the spices soak in until the liquid boils again.
You’ll want to add the salt only if you are using homemade chicken stock with no additional salt added. If you are using store bought, then little to none may be required as it generally contains a bunch of sodium. You can reserve all salt additions for the final step if you don’t know how to judge it at this point in the recipe by taste.
Step 4 – Pour and Combine
Pour the entire mixture over the breadcrumbs.
Stir the breadcrumbs swiftly, letting the hot liquids soak into all the crevices, making every dried piece a soaked morsel. It’s best to begin with a large spoon and then, if you’re brave, work everything together with your hands.
Strewn between your fingers, the stuffing will feel hot, wet, messy—a lot like a science project you might have attempted in junior high. When all the bread is thoroughly coated, it’s ready to be stuffed into your turkey, plated and served, or put away in the refrigerator or freezer.
Step 5 – Pack the Turkey or Plate and Serve
You may want to pack inside of turkey right away if you are doing a traditional roast, but if you are dry brining or wet brining, the added moisture from the stuffing is not required for a tender and juicy tukey.
In this case you can plate and serve with some parsley as garnish. You can also pack and chill in the refrigerator a couple of days ahead of your scheduled feast, or it can even be frozen weeks in advance.
For a crisper, browner finish, you can also broil in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
What about you? Do you have any tips on perfecting the ultimate bread stuffing recipe? Maybe you prefer a coastal style, and use oysters as your family-favorite side dish? Let us know in the comments below!
And remember to check out all of our Thanksgiving recipes now!
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Photos by Mike Quinn, © Foodal / Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published December 1st, 2008 by Shanna Mallon. Revised and updated November 14th, 2017, with additional writing by Mike Quinn.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.
14 thoughts on “Grandma’s Old Fashioned Stuffing”
your turkey spread looks so lovely! i heart old recipes like these. your grandmother sounds just wonderful.
oh gosh, i ate so much this past weekend…!
I love mixing up the stuffing, too! There’s something so satisfying about getting every last piece of bread coated and moist. 🙂
I couldn’t stop smiling reading this love letter to turkey and Thanksgiving! 🙂 So glad that you had a good time and important things (read: the food) turned out well.
So… where are my leftovers? Just kidding. Lovely! You worry too much, Shannalee. 🙂
There is nothing like recipes from Grandma. Yours looks very very yummy. (and your first Thanksgiving very successful, congratulations!)
I have to say, the victory of making something well—particularly something you were intimidated by—is very, very sweet.
Thanks, Lan! I had so much fun. 🙂 And my grandma really was wonderful. I read something this weekend about how everyone thinks their grandmas are wonderful and it’s boring material. But you know what? She was, and I think everyone should know! I love reading about your grandma, too. 🙂
Amy: You and me, both, friend. How can you go from so hungry to so full so fast?
Jacqui: Right? Very sloppy and wet, and fun. 🙂
Kelley: I’d love to hear about your Thanksgiving. Your menu was so inspiring–how’d it all go? BTW: remember our plans to read a new book? Have you read M.K. Fisher? I was thinking her. I’ll e-mail you soon.
Thanks, Carrie. In my defense (or not, depending on how you look at it), I have been known to make MANY MISTAKES, so the fear was grounded, though thankfully, unneeded. 🙂
Joie de vivre: Thanks again for stopping by… I enjoyed reading about your Thanksgiving and how you got your boys involved. Thought it was so adorable.
That looks amazing! And how clever to cook just the breast which is really the best part! Thanks for sharing your post! Looking forward to seeing more 🙂
What a spread! I have a lot of catching up to do on Food Loves Writing!
you have made me feel like I was back in the kitchen with myown Grandmother. I can almost smell that turkey.
Celeste, Some memories are in us deeply, aren’t they? I’m so thankful for that.
Can this be baked separately in a casserole? What temp and how long?
Yes, absolutely. Broil in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until warmed through and crispy on top.
Finally someone has the recipe EXACTLY the way my grandmother made it. THANK you so much. 🙂