I tried stuffing dishes from famous chefs Ina Garten, Paula Deen, Ree Drummond, and Sunny Anderson.
Anderson's recipe was my favorite because of its mostly savory flavor and easy preparation.
Both Deen and Drummond's stuffing required the extra step of baking homemade cornbread.
For many Thanksgiving menus, stuffing is a must, but the countless recipes and techniques can make this Turkey Day staple feel overwhelming.
To find the best stuffing option, I tried making recipes from celebrity chefs Ina Garten, Paula Deen, Ree Drummond, and Sunny Anderson.
Garten's herb-and-apple stuffing features plenty of fresh ingredients
Unlike the other recipes I tested, Garten's requires only one type of bread — baguettes — which made it easier to prepare.
I also appreciated the addition of fresh herbs but was unsure how I'd like the apples and almonds combined with the savory onions and celery.
This recipe yields a huge portion, so I cut it in half.
This stuffing was quite easy to make
Overall, the process was pretty simple.
While drying the bread in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes, I sautéed the veggies, apples, and herbs in a saucepan with butter.
Once the mixture was combined, I poured it and the vegetable stock over the bread cubes.
This recipe calls for cooking the filling inside a turkey cavity for two-and-a-half hours at 350 degrees Fahrenheit — however, I wasn't making a bird for this taste test, so I baked the stuffing at the same temperature in a shallow dish for an hour instead.
The longest part of the process was cooking the onions, celery, and apples, but even that only took about 10 minutes.
I enjoyed the apples but not the almonds
The final dish was pretty crispy and golden on top, but when I scooped a serving out of the pan, its center looked less appetizing.
The texture was OK — the insides were definitely soggy, but not terrible. Adding a little less broth would likely solve this.
Next time, I would definitely omit the nuts. I used slivered almonds, and between their crunchiness, size, and shape, they threw off the dish's overall texture.
The crusty breaded exterior was delicious and added all of the crunch this dish needed.
Deen's recipe calls for a lot of butter and homemade cornbread
In true Deen fashion, this stuffing calls for a full stick of butter.
I was also unsure about the mixture of carbs here — saltine crackers, white bread, and cornbread, which I made from scratch using Deen's recipe.
My stuffing mix ended up with too much broth, some of which I had to carefully pour out before baking
For the carbs, I started by making the cornbread — which was a quick and easy process that resulted in a savory, slightly dense dish — and dried the white bread slices in the oven.
I then sautéed the veggies with the stick of butter and mixed all of the prepared ingredients in a bowl.
When adding the vegetable stock, I stopped after about five cups because the mixture looked far too soggy already. Still concerned about the texture, I poured out more broth before adding five eggs to the mix.
I then transferred everything into a shallow, glass baking dish. It took about an hour in the oven for the mix to really crisp up.
The flavor was fine, but the texture was disappointing
The top was slightly golden, but it didn't get as crispy as the other recipes I tested.
When I took a bite, I noted the interior was far too soggy — there was definitely too much broth, and the crackers turned mushy after absorbing the liquid.
The flavor was OK — very savory and buttery — but the extra-soggy texture was not appetizing.
If I made this again, I'd swap some of the crackers for more bread and cut the broth back by at least half of the amount called for.
Drummond's stuffing recipe requires 3 kinds of bread
The Pioneer Woman's recipe calls for a lot of bread — three different types, including homemade cornbread. Because I already had the ingredients needed to make Deen's cornbread, I used that option for this dish as well.
In addition to a large amount of bread, this recipe also requires a lot of parsley.
The process involved making cornbread and carefully ladling broth onto the cubed carbs
I noticed a little too late that I was supposed to dry the bread out for one to two days, but I threw it in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes and it still firmed up really well.
In general, this recipe had a similar process to the other two, from making the cornbread and dehydrating the other carbs to sautéeing the veggies.
The recipe instructed me to add six cups of broth to the sautéed vegetables, then ladle this mixture onto the tossed bread cubes until they were soaked to my liking.
I preferred this approach, as it was easier to control and prevent the stuffing from becoming soggy.
My stuffing took about 40 minutes in the oven rather than the 20 to 30 minutes the recipe called for, but the extra time helped it achieve a crisp, golden top.
The flavor would've been better with less celery
Although the stuffing was toasty on top without being burnt, it still looked soggy inside.
But upon tasting it, the dish's flavor and texture actually weren't bad at all. The center was slightly soggy, but not overwhelmingly so, and the extra-crispy top helped balance the texture.
My only issue with this recipe was it had way too much celery. I'm not a fan of the vegetable in general, but I can tolerate it in moderate amounts — still, almost every bite tasted strongly of it.
That said, the bites with minimal celery were delicious, with a savory, herby flavor.
Anderson's stuffing recipe offers 4 flavor combinations to choose from
I swapped turkey stock for vegetable broth since I don't eat meat products, and I left out the thyme as a personal preference.
Anderson also offers four add-on combinations to give the dish more flavor — sausage and bell peppers, oysters and hard-boiled eggs, walnuts and apples, and sautéed fennel bulb and dried apricots. I opted for the last combo.
Most of the prep work involved chopping veggies
This recipe was quick to put together. For the base, I simply dumped the stuffing mixture in a large bowl and added freshly chopped parsley.
I got to work mincing the garlic and chopping the onion, celery, fennel bulb, sage, and dried apricots. Aside from the hands-off baking portion of the process, this step took the longest.
Then I cooked the veggies, sage, garlic, salt, and pepper in a pan until the mix started to soften.
After combining the sautéed mixture with the boxed stuffing and vegetable broth, I mixed in the dried apricots and pressed everything down into a glass baking dish.
I covered the whole thing with foil and let it bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, before removing the metal topping and cooking it for an additional 15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
The stuffing turned out crispy and flavorful
I was worried this recipe would turn out too soggy since it's meant to be a wet dressing, but it actually baked up really well. It came out of the oven with a soft, almost creamy center and an extra-crispy exterior.
The sautéed veggies created a very savory flavor profile, and I couldn't even taste the celery.
I was also a little unsure about the apricots, but they added a touch of sweetness and melted in my mouth, which was a nice addition to the various textures.
Anderson's easy stuffing was my favorite, but all of these recipes would be worth making again with a few tweaks
If I had to choose a favorite, I'd go for Anderson's unique stuffing.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the fennel-and-apricot combination — it added an interesting twist while remaining true to the traditional dish. Plus, this recipe was the quickest and easiest to make.
I also loved the flavor of Garten's herby stuffing with the rosemary and apple, but I'd leave out the almonds and use less broth next time.
Deen's recipe had an enjoyable savory, buttery flavor, but it needed far less stock to fix the texture. I think adding more bread instead of as many crackers would also help.
For Drummond's stuffing, I'd use slightly less broth for an even better texture and way less celery to help the flavor of the sautéed veggies and fresh herbs shine.
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