Thanksgiving stuffing is the dish that puts any old dinner party firmly in holiday territory. You can eat pie, cornbread, and green beans any time of the year, but stuffing, in all of its indulgent glory is the true signifier of the season. (Though, if your family eats homemade stuffing on any given weeknight in March, we salute you.)
Below, we’ll outline how to make stuffing that’s entirely customizable and especially memorable. That means you can make a stuffing that matches any meal—whether it’s a low-key holiday with a couple of friends or an all-out black-tie affair. After all, once you learn the fundamentals, making your ideal stuffing is just a loaf of bread (plus some aromatics, maybe a little sausage, and a textural add-in or two) away—no stuffing recipe required. (BTW, these instructions are for bread stuffing that’s baked outside the bird.loyalists, look away.)
How to make stuffing:
Heat the oven to 350°. Butter a shallow 3-qt. baking dish—a 13×9″ straight-sided pan is perfectly proportioned for crispy edges and custardy middles, but almost any casserole dish will do—and butter a sheet of foil. This amount of stuffing will serve about 8 people (6 if your crew is really hungry; 10 if you’re working on all of those other side dishes).
Prepare the bread
Once you’ve got your setup, the first and arguably most important step is to choose the right kind of bread. Think of the bread as your stuffing’s main ingredient, as its backdrop—it’s going to set the tone for the whole dish.
If you want a blank canvas—maybe you’re planning to add a ton of mix-ins that needn’t be overshadowed)—choose a Pullman loaf. For something richer that will yield a stuffing more akin to bread pudding, go with eggy challah or brioche. Ciabatta, with its airy innards and crusty exterior, is particularly suited to tearing into craggy pieces and another good plain candidate. Baguettes, because they’re so thin, maximize crustiness. On the opposite end of the spectrum, white breads, like sandwich bread, lean into soft squishiness. If you choose rye or sourdough, keep their inherently strong flavors in mind as you choose what else to add. Cornbread, whether lightly sweet or totally savory, lends a softer, more spoonable texture.