Going homemade this year? Here’s what you need to know
Stuffing is super-easy, so if you’ve got a bit of time, it’s worth going homemade. Stuffing can include meat or be entirely vegetarian, so there’s something for everyone. Herbs are commonly added, as is fruit, and meats that are used include sausage, liver and pancetta.
OK, so what goes with what?
There are no hard-and-fast rules, but some classic flavour pairings are chicken or other poultry with sage and onion; pork with apricot, prunes or apple; lamb with a mint-based stuffing mix and beef with mushroom.
Stuffing can also be used for vegetarian dishes, such as in roasted peppers or tomatoes – or other vegetables, like a hollowed-out squash or courgettes with a channel cut into the centre.
The base ingredients you’ll need to make a stuffing are breadcrumbs, seasoning, butter and egg.
To stuff or not to stuff?
To serve stuffing with poultry, it’s best to cook it in a separate tin, rather than by stuffing the bird. Otherwise, it takes so long for the bird and the stuffing to get up to temperature that by the time the stuffing is cooked, the bird is often dry and overdone. Also, it’s safest not to allow the stuffing to come into contact with the raw turkey juices, in case of under-cooking.
Another advantage of cooking stuffing separately is that it has an opportunity to develop a wonderfully crunchy top, which is a lovely contrast to the soft, breadier texture of the rest.
Stuff it, I’m stuffing
If you do prefer to stuff your bird (and it does look very seasonal when it’s carved), cook it until it’s hot throughout first (or microwave it, stirring once or twice during heating), then put it straight into the room-temperature bird. This prevents the risk of the bird being overcooked, as the stuffing will already have been brought up to temperature.
How to bind bread stuffing
Egg, water or stock can be added to a breadcrumb-based stuffing to help it to bind together. To avoid it getting too wet, add a little at a time and leave it to absorb for a few minutes before adding more. You want the mixture to be moist, but definitely not wet.
You could cook all the veg beforehand so that you just add the breadcrumbs and hot stock at the last minute before stuffing.
If, when your bird is cooked, the stuffing isn’t quite done, take it out and microwave it while the bird is resting.
Does it keep?
When you’ve prepared your homemade stuffing, you need to either cook it or freeze it straightaway. Cooked stuffing will keep in the fridge for up to three days. Frozen, uncooked stuffing needs time to defrost thoroughly before you cook it.
Try something different…
For a deliciously seasonal stuffing with a twist, try our recipe for Pork, prune and pistachio. Or, if you have a wheat-intolerant or coeliac guest, there’s Roast chicken, gluten-free stuffing and redcurrant gravy. For traditionalists, roast goose with chestnut stuffing can’t fail to impress.