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You say stuffing, I say dressing
Lets call the whole thing dinner!
What is stuffing? Cubes of bread, herbs, onions and spices, cooked in the turkey. - photo by SARA GUEVARA


Tim Roberts, owner and chef at 2 Dog Restaurant in Gainesville, talks about the difference between stuffing and dressing.
Join the stuffing vs. dressing discussion at The Times Life department's Facebook page.

There is one item on the Thanksgiving table that can make or break the entire Turkey Day experience.

That's the dressing - or should we call it stuffing?

In the South, it seems that dressing is the typical name of the side dish made from a variety of bread crumbs, onions, celery, herbs, spices and other ingredients.

And dressing is always baked in the oven.

"Honestly, it boils down to exactly what it says - stuffing is what's put inside the bird and dressing is what you make in a dish outside of the bird," said Tim Roberts, owner and chef of 2 Dog Restaurant in Gainesville.

"The biggest problem with stuffing and dressings in general is that they tend to dry out, though stuffing tends to be a little more moist in general because it's cooked inside the bird. ... It actually gains moisture from the actual cooking process."

But once you head north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you stop hearing the word dressing. Instead, it's simply stuffing - whether cooked inside the bird or separately - and you often see it come from a box of Stove Top.

And dressing? Mention it, and many Northerners think you're talking about the topping for the salad.

"I never used dressing," said Jan Rosenthal, a Gainesville resident who grew up in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. "I don't think people up North use ‘dressing.' I think just stuffing."

In fact, Rosenthal said, when she thinks of dressing, she doesn't think of a side dish made from cubed bread, sometimes found in the turkey. Rather, she said the word ‘dressing' reminds her of salad dressing instead.

"Dressing? I would think of something like that," she added.

But if you are making some dressing for Thanksgiving, be sure to keep it moist.

Two Dog's Roberts added that since dressing is baked in a dish, it could turn out dry without proper care.

"If you don't add enough moisture to it, like stock or butter or something like that, it will be dry on you," he said. "So for that reason I would say stuffing is probably your better bet.

"But then again, dressing is a heck of a lot easier because it's in a dish; you don't have to get into the bird. It's not near as messy."

Whether it's dressing or stuffing, each region of the United States has it's own flair for the crumbled bread dish.

In Southern cities like New Orleans you might have Creole dressing, and you'll find oyster dressing in Savannah or on the South Carolina coast. But in Georgia it usually is homemade corn bread dressing.

"Now we make dressing and I'm not real familiar with stuffing," said Tim Bunch, owner of Longstreet Cafe in Gainesville. "For dressing we just use homemade biscuits and homemade corn bread. Add a little bit of sage, celery and onions and chicken broth and eggs and that's just about it."

Bunch joked that he never has actually eaten stuffing because "we don't ever get that hungry; we eat the real dressing."

Chad Vaughan, owner of Big Bear Cafe in Gainesville, said he has always had the traditional corn bread dressing on holidays but does see the likeness of the two side dishes.

"Well I don't know, it's kind of like toh-may-toh, toh-mah-toh," he said. "Everybody has their own thoughts on that dressing and stuffing. I don't think there's anything definitive - that's a Northern term ... because they cook it inside the bird and we cook it in a pan."

At 2 Dog Restaurant, Roberts said his favorite stuffing is quite traditional.

"My favorite stuffing in general is either the traditional, old-school oyster stuffing where it's basically bread crumbs, a little cornmeal and then oysters and the herbs and spices," he said. "My other favorite is the one we do here occasionally, especially when people order turkeys from us. We usually do a walnut, andouille sausage and sun-dried tomato stuffing."

Roberts said the Cajun sausage adds spice to the turkey, the walnuts have a good flavor in general and the sun-dried tomatoes add flair. And to top it all off, he makes a simple gravy.

"Personally, I prefer taking the juices that are in the roasting pan and knocking out a quick gravy," Roberts said. "Basically a reduction sauce but you could add a little bit of a white gravy to the drippings from the turkey and get some of the fat out of that, and then that's clean, classic turkey gravy."