Unstuffed and Delicious: The Art of Cooking Stuffing Outside the Turkey

As Thanksgiving approaches, one of the most hotly debated topics among home cooks is the age-old question: to stuff or not to stuff the turkey? While there’s a certain nostalgic charm to the traditional method of baking stuffing inside the bird, more and more people are embracing the idea of cooking stuffing outside the turkey. This trend not only offers convenience and versatility but also ensures food safety and perfectly cooked results every time.

The Case for Unstuffed Stuffing

Cooking stuffing separately from the turkey may seem like a modern twist, but it’s a practice that has been gaining popularity for several reasons:

  1. Food Safety: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends cooking stuffing outside the turkey to ensure that it reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). This minimizes the risk of foodborne illnesses caused by undercooked stuffing.

  2. Even Cooking: When baked in a separate dish, stuffing cooks more evenly and consistently, without the risk of undercooking or overcooking that can occur when stuffed inside the turkey cavity.

  3. Versatility: Cooking stuffing separately allows you to accommodate different dietary preferences or flavor profiles. You can easily make a separate batch of vegetarian or gluten-free stuffing, or experiment with different herbs and spices without affecting the flavors of the turkey.

  4. Oven Space: By freeing up the turkey cavity, you can maximize oven space for other side dishes or even cook multiple batches of stuffing to cater to larger gatherings.

  5. Crispy Edges: One of the most beloved aspects of stuffing is the crispy, golden-brown edges. Baking stuffing in a separate dish ensures that more surface area is exposed, resulting in an abundance of those coveted crunchy bits.

Classic Bread Stuffing Recipes

If you’re ready to embrace the unstuffed stuffing trend, you’ll need a reliable recipe. Here are two classic bread stuffing recipes that are perfect for cooking outside the turkey:

Culinary Hill’s Classic Oven-Baked Bread Stuffing

This recipe from Culinary Hill is a quintessential bread stuffing that delivers all the flavors you love without the hassle of stuffing the bird. With a simple combination of butter, onions, celery, herbs, and bread cubes, it’s a tried-and-true crowd-pleaser.


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, plus more for greasing the dish
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups chicken or turkey broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh marjoram (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 loaf French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and dried overnight (about 1 pound)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) and grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with butter.
  2. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and celery until softened, about 7-8 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and stir in the broth, salt, and pepper.
  4. Add the cooked onion and celery mixture, along with the parsley, sage, thyme, and marjoram, to the egg mixture. Mix well.
  5. Add the bread cubes and toss to combine.
  6. Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish.
  7. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 25 minutes.
  8. Remove the foil and continue baking for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are crispy.

Seasons and Suppers’ Classic Bread Stuffing with Oven-Baked Option

This recipe from Seasons and Suppers offers a traditional bread stuffing with the option to bake it in the oven or stuff it in the turkey. If you choose the oven-baked route, the recipe includes instructions for adding broth to replicate the moisture and flavor of turkey-stuffed stuffing.


  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 cups onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup fennel, finely chopped (or additional 1 cup celery)
  • 4 teaspoons dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried savory
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 14 cups white bread, cubed or torn into about 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 4 tablespoons dried parsley for oven-baked stuffing)
  • 2 cups chicken or turkey stock or broth, low-sodium recommended (for oven-baked stuffing)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces (for oven-baked stuffing)


  1. Tear the bread into small pieces and let it sit on the counter for several hours to dry out.
  2. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and all the spices. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Pour the mixture over the cubed bread and mix well, using your hands to “squeeze” the mixture together.
  4. For oven-baked stuffing: Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Spread the warm stuffing evenly into a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Drizzle with 1 cup of the broth. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the foil, drizzle with the remaining 1 cup of broth, and top with butter pieces. Return to the oven, uncovered, for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until golden.

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Unstuffed Stuffing

While cooking stuffing outside the turkey is generally more straightforward, there are a few tips and tricks to ensure optimal results:

  • Dry Out the Bread: Stale or dried bread is essential for achieving the right texture in your stuffing. Allow the bread to dry out on the counter for a day or two, or dry it in a 300°F (149°C) oven for 30-40 minutes.

  • Use a Combination of Fresh and Dried Herbs: Fresh herbs like parsley, sage, and thyme add vibrant flavor, while dried herbs like marjoram and savory provide depth and complexity.

  • Add Broth or Stock: If baking the stuffing separately, add broth or stock to replicate the moisture and flavor that would typically come from being cooked inside the turkey.

  • Consider Baking with Turkey Wings or Pieces: For an extra boost of turkey flavor, some recipes recommend baking the stuffing with turkey wings or pieces on top, which will release their juices and flavors into the stuffing as it bakes.

  • Adjust Seasoning to Taste: Since the stuffing isn’t absorbing flavors from the turkey cavity, you may need to adjust the seasoning to your liking. Don’t be afraid to add more salt, pepper, or herbs if desired.

Embrace the Unstuffed Tradition

Cooking stuffing outside the turkey not only simplifies the Thanksgiving meal preparation but also ensures consistently delicious results. With classic recipes like those from Culinary Hill and Seasons and Suppers, you can create a flavorful, perfectly cooked stuffing that will complement your turkey and become a beloved part of your holiday tradition.

So, this Thanksgiving, embrace the unstuffed stuffing trend and enjoy the convenience, versatility, and crispy edges that come with baking it separately. Your guests will be impressed, and you’ll have one less thing to worry about as you enjoy the company of loved ones and savor the flavors of the season.

Should You Cook Your Stuffing Inside or Outside Your Turkey?

Leave a Comment