If you have ever had plain roasted meat, be it chicken, turkey, or any other kind, you know that it can be extremely dry and flavorless. What can be done about it?
You have probably already tried all the “tips and tricks” you could find to prevent dry turkey, but nothing seems to work.
Well, we would like to share our little secret: stuff it! Yes, it is that simple. A quick and easy bread stuffing makes all the difference in the world.
But what makes a good stuffing? Choosing the correct type of bread can make or break a stuffing. The bread fulfills a wide number of functions in a stuffing, therefore it is extremely important to choose the correct type.
But what type of bread will be the best for stuffing? The best type of bread to use for stuffings include any bread with low moisture content, that has a tight crumb (small holes) and that has a neutral flavor. Bread like this includes plain white bread, challah, and brioche.
In this article, we will look at exactly what a stuffing is and why it is needed. This will help us determine what type of bread will and won’t work.
We will also be looking at different characteristics of bread in detail to help better understand how to choose the correct type of bread.
What Is Stuffing?
A stuffing is a mixture of bread and other flavoring ingredients that is used to fill a cavity of another food item.
It mainly consists of dried bread cubes or crumbs and can include virtually any other type of ingredient. The ingredients should all have complementary flavors to create a beautifully balanced stuffing as well as elevate the flavor of the food item it is used in.
Stuffing is most often used in poultry items such as chickens, quails, turkeys and duck to name a few. This is because these items become very dry, very easily during the roasting process. With any poultry item, the meat should be fully cooked, unlike beef that can be consumed raw.
This is another reason why poultry tends to end up dry and bland. There are no natural, flavorful juices that are released during cooking without the presence of other flavoring ingredients – that is why stuffing is so important.
Poultry items are very easy to stuff as they already have a cavity. This means that you can have maximum flavor with minimal effort.
Seafood, for example, a whole butterflied fish, can also be stuffed. Other popular seafood items that are often stuffed include squid heads, mussels, clams, crab and lobster. Of course, there are many different ways that the stuffing can be incorporated into these items.
Red meat is often stuffed, but it becomes more of a filling. The most popular method would be to create a stuffed and rolled piece of meat like a tenderloin or fillet.
The ingredients you use in your stuffing will be determined by the type of item you stuff and the flavor profile you are aiming for.
The most commonly used ingredients for stuffing, to accompany the bread, of course, includes onion, celery, and carrots.
Spices often used include your basic salt and pepper, but also cumin, coriander, and even chili.
Popular herbs used in stuffing include parsley, coriander, rosemary, thyme, and sage. For the more elaborate stuffing, dried fruits and nuts, like pecans and cranberries, can also be included.
Again, when choosing which ingredients to use it is important to keep in mind which ones pair well and will elevate the meat you are using it for.
Why Is Stuffing Needed?
A bread stuffing serves two main functions during cooking:
- Adding flavor
- Keeping the meat moist
Like we previously mentioned, stuffing adds flavor to meat that is often bland. It does this by absorbing juices during cooking from the meat itself and the other ingredients. These flavors are trapped and further develop during the cooking process.
The second function, keeping the meat moist, is achieved by using the correct type of bread as well. The bread needs to be able to trap as much moisture (and flavor) as possible to keep the meat moist, especially those that need to cook for long periods.
Choosing Bread For The Stuffing
Most families already have an “ultimate stuffing” recipe and though tradition is important, tweaking some isn’t a bad idea. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want the best stuffing on the block?
The bread is the most important ingredient for a stuffing, mainly because it makes up the largest part of the stuffing, but also because it directly affects the function of it.
The two most important aspects to look at when choosing a type of bread for your stuffing include its texture and its flavor.
The texture of the perfect type of bread for stuffing should be smooth, dense (fine crumb), and not highly hydrated.
You should choose a type of bread that has a dense or tight crumb. A tight crumb is used to describe breads that don’t have large (or even medium) sized holes.
Bread with open crumbs includes sourdough, ciabatta, and any other type of bread with these holes in them.
The reason a tighter crumb is desired is that it will allow the bread to absorb more moisture and flavor from the other ingredients.
In short, the more holes it has, the less surface area there is, the fewer juices will be absorbed, ultimately resulting in less flavor and moisture.
Bread with a high hydration can be defined as any bread that is made up of mostly water (breads that have at least 55% and higher water content).
This percentage usually directly affects the type of bread it is. For example, sourdoughs usually have a very high hydration (sometimes even 100%). Any bread can have a high hydration so to be safe, choose your basic white bread for your stuffing.
The bread you choose for your stuffing mustn’t be highly hydrated. This will prevent the bread from soaking up any more liquid as it is already full.
Although you do dry out bread before using it for stuffing, the dried pieces of highly hydrated breads will be more crumbly and result in a very soggy stuffing.
The second function of a stuffing is to add flavor. As you can see from the “bread texture” section, the crumb of the bread affects how much liquid it will be able to absorb.
If you choose a good type of bread that can absorb a lot of flavor but overpowers those flavors with its own, all your effort has been for nothing.
Do not choose flavored bread like botanical bread (bread with lots of herbs and spices in them), babka (dessert bread), or even bread like sourdough or focaccia. All these types of bread have very strong and pungent flavors that might take away from the main food item.
There is also the possibility that the flavors in those types of bread do not blend well with the flavor of the other stuffing ingredients.
Of course, this rule isn’t set in stone and once you feel more comfortable with making stuffing and pairing flavors, you should experiment with these types of breads. But for now, let’s stick with a classic and basic stuffing.
|Worst Breads To Make A Stuffing With|
|Bread type||Reason they are bad for stuffing|
|Ciabatta||The crumb is too open, possibly too highly hydrated|
|French breads||The crumb is too open|
|Sourdough||The crumb is too open, possibly too highly hydrated, very strong flavors|
|Pumpernickel||Too highly hydrated, very strong flavors|
|German Rye||Too highly hydrated, very strong flavors|
|100% whole grain||Too highly hydrated|
|100% Wheat bread||Too highly hydrated|
|Foccacia||Very strong flavors|
|Botanical breads||Very strong flavors|
|Garlic bread||Very strong flavors|
The Best Bread For A Stuffing
Now that we have looked at breads that will not work for stuffing, let’s take a look at breads that will make the best stuffing.
Choosing one of these loaves of bread will:
- Improve the texture of your stuffing
- Improve the moistness of the meat you are roasting
- Balance out the flavor of your stuffing without overpowering any other flavor
- Help develop additional flavor by trapping the juices of other ingredients
If you already have a recipe for a stuffing that uses a different type of bread, at least once try using one of these breads. The same applies if you are looking for a stuffing recipe that doesn’t have one of these breads in it.
By only substituting the bread with a better type, you can have a stuffing that will blow all other stuffing recipes out of the park.
You do not have to change the recipe at all, only use a different type of bread. Using a different type of bread will also not affect the instructions in any way.
The best type of bread you can use to make stuffing with would be a basic white bread.
First of all, a basic white bread is very easy to find and also very cost-effective.
Nothing can beat the convenience of using this loaf.
Secondly, white bread has the perfect neutral flavor profile. A basic white loaf isn’t flavored in any way. It isn’t sweet, salty, or tangy, thus making it the perfect type of bread to use for your stuffing.
The last reason has to do with the texture of the white bread.
White bread has a very tight crumb and is naturally soft and fluffy. It also doesn’t have a high hydration percentage thus making it perfect to absorb additional liquids.
White bread is very easy to dry out and can be done in mere minutes. You can also leave out a loaf for a couple of days and nature will do the work for you.
Ultimately, it is your best, easiest and most convenient option when it comes to making a bread-based stuffing.
Challah is a type of traditional Jewish bread that closely resembles the texture and characteristics of a white bread loaf.
The addition of eggs to this bread makes the crumb extra tight, soft and airy.
Challah bread will give you very similar results to white bread: it will dry out very easily, isn’t too highly hydrated so will not make crumble when dried and also has a fine texture to absorb lots of liquid during the cooking process.
One big difference between challah and white bread is the flavor. Because of the added eggs, challah bread is much richer than white bread, although the flavor is still very neutral.
Challah bread will make your stuffing taste richer while still allowing the other flavors to be prominent.
The only minor downside to using challah is its shape. Challah is a type of braided bread meaning your bread cubes might not dry out at the same pace. However, this isn’t by any means a massive problem and can be easily overcome.
Brioche is another type of bread that is very similar to white bread and challah.
Brioche is an enriched bread like Challah and will therefore enrich the stuffing without overpowering any other flavors.
It also has a very tight texture and isn’t highly hydrated, thus it will act exactly the same way challah would.
Brioche might be more easily accessible than challah depending on your location and will also dry a bit better.
|Best Breads To Make A Stuffing With|
|Bread type||Reason they are good for stuffing|
|White bread||Easily accessible and cost-effective, very neutral flavor profile, tight crumb, low hydration, easy to dry|
|Challah||Neutral but enriched flavor profile (will not affect the flavor), tight crumb, low hydration, easy to dry|
|Brioche||Neutral but enriched flavor profile (will not affect the flavor), tight crumb, low hydration, easy to dry|
Does bread have to be stale for stuffing?
Bread has to be stale or dried. Any type of fresh or soft bread will only result in a wet mess of a stuffing.
This is the same reason you do not use highly hydrated bread because any excess moisture will leave your stuffing as a soup.
What is the best way to dry out bread for stuffing?
There are two ways to dry out bread for stuffing.
The first is to simply leave out the bread cubes to dry on a counter for a few days. This is of course a time-consuming process, but if you have that time, it is easy and effortless.
The second method to dry out your bread is to spread the cubes onto a baking sheet and dry them in an oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-60 minutes – exactly how you would make croutons.
How do you know if the bread cubes have been dried enough?
An easy way to determine if the bread has been dried sufficiently is to feel the texture of it. It shouldn’t be rock hard but it should also not give when pressed.
Can you make stuffing the day before?
You can make any type of bread stuffing the day before, as long as it doesn’t get baked. This will save you a lot of time on the day, especially if there are tons of other work that needs to be done.
Up Next: Can You Freeze Stuffing?