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.
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
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.
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? 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.