Sunday, December 05, 2010

stuffing and dressing

Between (US) Thanksgiving and Christmas seems like a good time for addressing the AmE use of the word dressing versus general-English stuffing.  I seem to have three requests for coverage of this. One from a Twitterer who will have to remain anonymous, as I can't find the original tweet (despite spending the entirety of QI XL trying), former-student-now-successful-speech-therapist Jodie, and mostlyharmless in Canada.

Let's start with stuffing because it's simple -- it means pretty much the same thing in BrE and AmE--a mixture of something bready and some flavo(u)rful things, stuffed into and cooked in another food, especially poultry.

Now, dressing is also general English in that it means generally what 'dresses' a food. Here's what the OED has to say:

The seasoning substance used in cooking; stuffing; the sauce, etc., used in preparing a dish, a salad, etc.

So, from this sense we get salad dressing (a general term used in both countries...but the specifics probably deserve their own post. In the meantime, some of it is covered in this old post and especially its comments). But in AmE (and according to mostlyharmless, CanE), dressing can be used specifically to mean 'stuffing'. Many of us have both stuffing and dressing in our vocabularies, which belies the claim that some dialects say one and some the other.  The Corpus of Contemporary American English has nine instances of turkey stuffing and three of turkey dressing, all from national publications.

Some people make a distinction between stuffing and dressing, with stuffing being what is stuffed into the bird (or whatever) and dressing being the same material, but cooked separately.  I've been known to make that distinction myself, but I note that the most famous US for a non-stuffed version of this foodstuff is called Stove Top Stuffing.  And there are plenty of (North American) people who stuff dressing into turkeys--I suspect that the stuffed-stuffing/non-stuffed-dressing distinction has come about because people found themselves with two words for the same thing and had the natural desire to find a distinction. As Alan Cruse once wrote, "natural languages abhor absolute synonyms just as nature abhors a vacuum".

73 comments:

Zhoen said...

Am/E, Dressing is what I put on salad. Stuffing is the bread or potato based herbed side dish with poultry that may or may not have cooked inside the bird. I would never use Dressing for that.

e-Mom said...

As a Canadian expat, I grew up with turkey "dressing" inside the bird... never cooked separately outside. Always served from the turkey with a long-handled silver spoon.

Now I live in the U.S. and I thought my American friends were so unsophisticated to call that which goes inside the bird "stuffing." (And why would you need to cook extra oustide anyway?)

Thanks for clearing the issue up for me!!! :~D

alice said...

Interestingly enough, this very subject came up at our family Thanksgiving, as I tried, unsuccessfully, to explain the difference to my Argentina-born brother-in-law.

And, to e-Mom, the reason you could extra stuffing outside the bird is that the basic recipe, especially if you buy a packaged mix and then feel the urge to doctor it with extras, makes more stuffing than will fit in a turkey that fits in a typical oven, and we can't let the extra go to waste.

Pascal Matheis said...

I’m American, and I’ve never heard the stuff one stuffs a turkey with called “dressing”.

John Burgess said...

Also American and comfortable with either or both. While 'dressing' can of course be used more widely, the terms are synonymous, the way 'icing' and 'frosting' for a cake are synonymous.

Gary S said...

Love the last line about "absolute synonyms."

Mom makes the distinction between stuffing & dressing, I don't. Stuffing is what was inside the bird and dressing is baked separately.

Our family no longer stuffs the bird, the dressing is always prepared in a separate pan. The reason is food-borne illness. If the stuffing sits inside the bird too long on the table at room temperature, bacteria will quickly develop. Same thing for refrigerating the bird after the meal. Be sure to remove all traces of the stuffing/dressing from the bird if you're putting the whole carcass into the 'fridge.

Amy said...

Also American (NYC) and like Pascal Matheis, I've never heard "dressing" used in that sense...I'd only use dressing for a liquid, like salad dressing. But then, I'm only first generation American, so I'm probably not the best source. :)

Anonymous said...

American NYC, another vote for "dressing"=liquid, and stuffing=solid...never thought the two words were even close to synonymous until today

Anthony said...

I third that (as a AmE from NYC). I'd never heard dressing used for stuffing before. On that note, I would never say one "dresses a turkey with stuffing" or "stuffs a turkey with dressing." I would refer to the action as simply "stuffing a turkey" (or, as Gary S put it, "stuff[ing] the bird"). It's amazing how much I learn about the variety of English spoken in this country from a blog about the differences there are across the Atlantic!

Ø said...

For all my life I have known "dressing" as an exact synonym (in the poultry context) of "stuffing". I think my (Vermont Yankee) grandmother said "dressing", but I usually say "stuffing", like most people I know.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Gary S above as far as the advisability of stuffing the stuffing into the bird, but I'm with his mom as far as the dressing vs. stuffing question. (Odd coincidence: when I was reading this post, my music player decided to play Dar Williams' "The Christians and the Pagans".)

semidetachedbrit said...

I first heard "dressing" used for "stuffing" when I moved from England to Massachusetts. Being British, "dressing" refers only to salad dressing in my vocabulary, but I've got used to other people using the word to refer to stuffing - although whether inside the bird or out I have no idea. To me it's all stuffing - in or out. At least I don't have to explain what it is, unless I'm craving Paxo.

KenM said...

Sounds like this would be as good an isogloss as pop/soda/coke. If you decide to draw up a map, I'm from Baltimore, and I've only ever called it stuffing, though I know it's sometimes dressing (though I'm interested enough in dialect food terms to know what "beef on weck" is). I'd thought "dressing" was a southern thing, but looking at the comments, it seems to be more northern. I think it's just that I am used to weird dialect words being more common south of me than to the north ...

David Crosbie said...

I grew up in post-war years Britain when the vast majority had never heard of salad dressing. People would put a dollop of salad cream on a leaf of lettuce to go with the boiled egg, beetroot and cold baked beans. Even mayonnaise was rare and posh.

So I've always associated dressing with decoration. You had table dressing just as shops had window dressing. When I started cooking, I thought of dressing as what you added to cooked food on the plate between the oven and the table. Talking to Americans about food, it took me some time to realise that they meant something different.

Many Brits of my generation are not keen on salad, and I hate it. So I never use the bare word dressing for the stuff that you put on salads. I say things like garlic and oil dressing. I think I used to say a French dressing.

Stuffing used to be a perfectly straightforward word which described the function of the thing denoted. But then some public health inspectors found examples of (presumably) salmonella in chicken that wasn't cooked though. So they pronounced against stuffing chicken — with the result that all cookery writers and broadcasters (so it seems) advise you to cook the stuffing separately.

[I think this is crazy. All you need to do is make sure that the bird and the stuffing inside it are thoroughly cooked. It's not the flavour of the stuffing that counts — it's the way it moistens the bird.]

We probably would have adopted dressing before to mean separately cooked stuffing, chipolatas and other additions — but for the fact that we say all the trimmings.

In Britain there is another rival word to stuffing. Perhaps because we think the word a little suggestive (or else a bit vulgar, like belly) we sometimes use the word forcemeat. Could it be similar prudery (or propriety) that led to American use of dressing?

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I (BrE, Sussex/Hampshire/South London) think of "forcemeat" as a specific type of stuffing, usually sausage-meat based. "Dressing" applies to salads.

I hadn't actually realised that in some parts of the USA dressing=stuffing; I think I had always assumed that "turkey dressing" was things like cranberry sauce (for years so mysterious, but easily available nowadays and makes a nice alternative to the traditional red-currant jelly).

mlf said...

I'm in Michigan. I've never heard an American say "dressing' when they meant 'stuffing'. I use both - I got the 'dressing' from my Welsh parents. People are confused when I say 'dressing' and mean 'stuffing'. It's the opposite of what you said.

Jodi Schneider said...

Dressing seems less common in AmE than the verb 'dress' (e.g. 'to dress a turkey'). Perhaps it's a regional word; otherwise it's just rare (in my hearing).

DetailBear said...

Canadian of mixed British and American heritage here, and I remember learning "dressing" from my mother's English/Scottish side of the family. "Stuffing" was the norm and I believe it still is the default for commercial purposes around here (Southwestern Ontario) although some of the government agencies seem to be pushing "dressing" to associate it with being cooked outside the turkey.

As far as food safety goes, our turkey was stuffed just before cooking and the stuffing removed from the turkey right after cooking and kept in a Pyrex™ casserole dish in the oven until serving. It was a little dry, but gravy fixed that.

lynneguist said...

I'd be interested to know people's ages who believe they have never heard 'dressing'. I suspect that it's going away, what with the institutionali{z/s}ation of Stove Top Stuffing and the like. I definitely think of it as something that my parents and grandparents say but not necessarily my brothers or nieces/nephews.

Layah said...

I'm 27 Californian and I would never use dressing to mean stuffing, and I call it stuffing whether it is made inside or outside the turkey. I have heard of dressing a turkey and I have some vague idea that it had to do with what stuff you put on the outside, like sauces and spices. I don't think I've ever heard older people (or anyone) call stuffing dressing.

Ø said...

In AmE there is the possibility of baked stuffed shrimp. In this case there is of course no question of putting the flavored breadcrumb mixture on the inside!

Ø said...

The word "farce" is etymologically related to "forcemeat" -- a comic interlude in a serious play being analogous to a layer of something different in a dish.

Dru said...

I'm English and this would be my understanding. I'm not aware of having ever encountered any other usage.:-

Stuffing - what goes inside a bird or between the rolls of a composite tied animal joint. Also used to describe the same thing even if cooked separately. Herbal and solid to crumbly.

Forcemeat - stuffing made with sausage meat or something similar.

Dressing - what is poured on salad or salad is squirmed round in, in its bowl. Liquid, fairly liquid or dollopy. Often includes olive oil and vinegar mixed together, sometimes clear and sometimes thicker and yellow. There's a more exotic form that is slightly pink and has things floating in it.

lekkermeisje said...

34-year-old American, Austin, TX.

I tend to use the two words interchangeably, but my family calls it dressing.

Of course, I've never had it cooked stuffed in the bird. When we make turkey, we either smoke it or bake it ahead of time and then carve all the meat off. It's warmed up just before the meal in a casserole dish. The dressing/stuffing is separate.

Anonymous said...

American, 22, from a small town in Kentucky. I had never heard anyone say anything OTHER than 'dressing' until I went up north (well, Indiana) for university. I don't think there's any generational difference on this where I'm from.

Shaun Clarkson said...

English, 44, and to me you either stuff a turkey with stuffing or cook it with stuffing outside. I would say dressing as a noun is liquid for salads, but I have a vague memory of dressing a bird being something to do with preparing it. I think it's removing the gibblets and so on.

Anonymous said...

And, to confuse things further, in Pennsylvania they call it "filling"

Shaun Clarkson said...

I think this is the meaning of dress I was vaguely aware of

vp said...

Mid-30s, grew up BrE but now live in the US. I had no idea that "dressing" could mean anything other than a liquid until this post.

Full disclosure: I'm vegetarian (but grew up omnivorous).

vp said...

PS

I had never heard of "forcemeat" either, and it sounds rather disgusting (both the sound of the word itself and what it denotes)!

lynneguist said...

I'm surprised that no one has responded to David Crosbie's comment with 'what in the world is a 'chipolata'?

American Heritage defines it as:
'A type of small thin sausage from the United Kingdom.' And even the UK Collins dictionary marks it as 'chiefly British'.

But even if they knew that this was a sausage, I'd expect Americans to be surprised by David's reference to it, as I've never seen sausages served alongside turkey in the US. Stuffings containing sausage meat, yes, but actual sausages, no.

I discovered when moving around the US and meeting new people there that there are definitely regional preferences for what goes with turkey within the US. But it's also true that what goes with turkey in the US is rather different from what goes with it in the UK. UK tables may have some cranberry sauce, but not the variety of cranberry condiments that Americans have with it. Americans almost always mash the (white) potatoes they have with turkey, but in the UK mashed potatoes are 'casual' food, and roasted potatoes are eaten with turkey and other roasts. In the UK, one often gets very hard balls of stuffing on the side, whereas in the US the stuffing cooked outside the Turkey is typically cooked/served in a casserole dish. And UK turkeys are often covered in bacon, which I've not seen much of in the US.

I went to a Thanksgiving/birthday party held by some more-recently-transplanted Americans a couple of weeks ago. The British guests were bemused by the mashed potatoes and gravy (but LOVED the Stove Top Stuffing!), and I had to translate: 'these are the "fancy" potatoes of my people'.

lynneguist said...

(please excuse my poor proofreading of the last comment!)

Shannon said...

I grew up in/live in Northern California but a lot of my family is from the midwest. I say stuffing for both the inside and outside of the bird versions but some of my older family members say dressing for both types. I'm not sure if it's a regional thing or a generational thing. Either way, it's my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal!

Anonymous said...

We (UK) drape rashers of bacon over the turkey part-way through cooking to baste it (and to add some flavour to rather bland meat, as do the chipolata sausages).

Cranberry sauce is a borrowing from the US; the traditional sauce with poultry is bread sauce (milk flavoured with onion and spice and thickened with white breadcrumbs).

David Crosbie said...

I don't think chipolatas have a long history on the Christmas table. It's just that they look classy wrapped in bacon and they're widely available in supermarkets.

The best traditional turkey dinner I ever had was in Germany and it was Anglo-American. The planning and cooking was shared by the British and American Lektoren (assistant lecturers) and their partners, so the trimmings came from regional traditions of both countries.

To start with, we decided that German turkeys weren't right. One colleague used her military connections to buy a bird from a nearby PX.

[I would translate this as NAAFI for British readers, but I don't suppose younger readers would recognise either acronym. I'm taking about shops etc on army bases.]

The first cultural clash was the right-on American woman who objected to the basting implant of hardened artificial fat of the kind that environmentalists despise. So we ripped it out.

Actually, I ripped it out because the turkeys were roasted in our oven. But the excitement was the variety of trimmings cooked in other peoples ovens and brought to assemble the dinner. Two very different corn dishes from New England and the Midwest. A salad from tinned sweetcorn and tuna from California. Potatoes cooked in various ways. Gravies and sauces. The Germans at the table couldn't believe the quantity or the quality — given that the reputation of British cuisine was rock bottom, and American's was even lower.

That must be when I first heard dressing used as a word for stuffing. My stuffing was definitely inside a bird. I can't remember whether anybody's dressing was cooked outside.

[Our best non-traditional Christmas turkey is not of linguistic interest, but the cooks among you may appreciate this tip: wrap the bird in pig's caul — bettter than any foil. An unlikely technique for Egypt, but the cook was a Christian.]

Dru said...

One of the things I really liked about the meals Americans gave when I lived abroad back in the 70s, was their much more imaginative things they included in salads or added as extra side dishes, than our boring lettuce, cucumber and a bit of tomato if you were very lucky. Of course these are much more general now, but it was a real novelty and a stimulus to the imagination to realise that other people could include in a salad things like bananas and peanuts.

I do though still prefer to cook stuffing inside a bird if possible, and don't see why one shouldn't eat bread sauce and cranberry jelly with the same meal.

Is it US practice to wrap stuffing between the rolls of joints of meat that are rolled up and tied?

lynneguist said...

Back in the office, I'm now able to see what the Dictionary of American Regional English has to say about _dressing_, and while they have many regional meanings for the term, the 'stuffing' meaning isn't one of them--and I believe this is because it is not particular to a region, as other sources have also claimed. So far, we've had reports of 'dressing' from New York state, Canada, Kentucky, Texas, Vermont, Massachusetts, and the midwest. It's a less common word, so it's not surprising that some people are less familiar with it, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily regional.

What DARE does have as US dialectal meanings of 'dressing':

1. A sweet sauce for topping desserts or pancakes (Inland north, North Midland)

2. Frosting (Kentucky, Missouri--not many citations, though)

3. sugar & cream in coffee (one citation from Kansas)

4. Gravy (chiefly Pennsylvania)

5. Manure used as fertilizer (chiefly North, esp. New England)

6. In hoodoo, someething applied to an object to give it magical power

Now, of course, a lot of people are going to say 'I'm from X, and it doesn't mean that', but that's because a lot of these thing are very local or have died out...

RWMG said...

I may have been the one who supplied your twitter query. I did mention dressing v. stuffing in a tweet during Thanksgiving week when an online friend from Kentucky (in her late 50s) mentioned the dressing she'd prepared for her Thanksgiving turkey, confusing me (SE England, early 50s) no end as I thought she meant some sort of salad dressing.

jerry said...

I also grew up in a household where stuffing actually went in the turkey, and the dressing was something placed on top of food. Interesting article though - I didn't know people actually referred to anything put inside a turkey as "dressing". Interesting....

DRK said...

In Texas, we often say dressing for stuffing, although there is something or other to do with inside the bird and outside the bird that I have never paid much attention to; our family discussions on this focusing more on cornbread dressing (good) and white bread aka Yankee dressing (not as good). I agree with some of the other commentators that I think this "dressing" usage is regional (it seems more common in the southern US), and generational (it seems more common among the older generation). I would also hypothesize that it is more a rural expression than an urban one, but I have no proof of that.

biochemist said...

When we say 'inside the turkey': I believe that modern recipe books and magazine will instruct us to detach some of the skin around the neck end, to make a big sack that can be filled with stuffing and the ends tucked (or sewn) in place. Any extra could be cooked in the oven along with the chipolatas (pigs in blankets if rolled in streaky bacon)and/or dates/prunes rolled in bacon.
Forcemeat does sound rather vulgar - as if we are 'forcing meat into a cavity' but in France the word farcie refers to a stuffed meat or fish dish, so I suppose that is its origin.
Bread sauce, like stuffing, presumably plays a role as cheaper calories to fill one up and spread out the meat among the other guests - to allow everyone to become 'stuffed'(AmE) by the end of the meal. It would be a very different occasion if we were all 'stuffed' in the BrE sense.....

Dru said...

No, no, no, Biochemist, not the neck. Once it's been gutted, an edible bird has a great empty cavity inside its rib cage. That's where the stuffing goes. You add to the cooking time to allow for the extra weight.

If you're lucky and buying a better quality bird, it comes with the gizzards and offal loose inside it. One of the things you can do with them is to add them to the stuffing to give it more flavour.

Lynne on your selection of US regional usages of dressing, I'm sure I've heard the New England one of dressing land for muckspreading, somewhere in rural England, but I can't remember where.

The old versions of the Bible also use 'vine-dresser' to mean a person who prunes them.

dbanoff said...

Born and raised in California, 62 years old, and I understand dressing (in this context) and stuffing to be interchangable.
My mother (from Ohio if it makes a difference) would cook the stuffing/dressing inside the turkey, and would prepare extra in a casserole dish in the oven if entertaining a larger group.
White potatoes were always mashed, the better to utilize the gravy made from the turkey drippings. And, though not to my taste, usually a sweet potato dish was served.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

@ Dru - my family always had both bread sauce and red-currant or quince jelly with the turkey; in recent years cranberry sauce has replaced the jelly, now that I know how to make it!

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

In my family it used to be traditional to have two different types of stuffing in the turkey - sausagemeat stuffing one end and chestnut stuffing the other. These days, in the interests of time and hygiene, the stuffings tend to be mixed and one-end-only!

I should be surprised to be served mashed potatoes with such a meal; roast potatoes are much less faff with a roast dinner, cooked alongside roast parsnips, sometimes roast sweet potatoes (another American import!) and a selection of green vegetables, including "Christmas" Brussels sprouts (dressed with lardons and chestnuts - now, you see, THAT's a dressing!) and, in my family for historical reasons, broad beans from the freezer.

Canadian said...

I've never heard anyone say "dressing" instead of "stuffing", but I have learned of such a practice on American food blogs.

My French-Canadian husband was pretty impressed with my basic bread stuffing, having grown up with a "farce" (French for stuffing) which was what some on this thread have called "forcemeat" (and I admit I thought was pretty weird when I encountered it -- why are you cooking meatloaf inside the turkey?).

John Burgess said...

@Dru: Back when it was considered safe to place dressing/stuffing in a fowl prior to cooking, both the body cavity and the neck cavity were filled. The neck of a fair-sized turkey could hold close to two cups of whatever.

@Canadian: The sausage stuffings/dressings in the US are still starch-predominate. I've had them made with bread (white, whole wheat, corn or combinations) as well as rice or potatoes. The potato-based ones actually tended (in my experience) to come from French-Canadians. They're a long way from 'meatloaf'.

Rick S said...

AmE, 57 years old. The first word for it in my familiolect was "stuffing", but "dressing" has been an absolute synonym for a long, long time, and regardless whether it's cooked inside or out. But I can't recall whether I acquired "dressing" in rural NY or after moving to Virginia at the age of 16.

Rebecca said...

I'm 28 and have always heard it as "stuffing" from media and friends (while living in TX, FL, MA, & NY). However, my mother uses the terms interchangeably and HER parents say dressing. They're from Missouri and Illinois - both rural. Now, my brother makes his "Cornbread Stuffing" and we also serve my mom's "Sage Dressing." But we partly call it that out of respect for the history and tradition of the family. Like serving "Waldorf Salad" this one time of year. Our stuffing/dressing has been prepared in a casserole dish for as long as I can remember. I had always thought it was called "stuffing" because a long time ago, that's what people did - like "dialing" a telephone.

Canadian said...

John Burgess -- Nevertheless, meatloaf is what it struck me as. The main ingredient is ground pork I believe. Perhaps there are mashed potatoes as a binder, but I never noticed them. It seemed to me like a meatloaf that wasn't all stuck together. Possibly it was somewhat like this one.

My in-laws are French Canadians who have lived in small-town Quebec all their lives, have not travelled much, do not speak English, etc. so I assumed it was a traditional recipe. I should check my Quebec cookbooks.

Shaun Clarkson said...

"I'm sure I've heard the New England one of dressing land for muckspreading, somewhere in rural England, but I can't remember where."
(top) dressing as a noun for manure, compost or perhaps bark chips or similar is, I think, normal BrEng, but maybe sufficiently obscure to class as a technical gardening / farming term rather than a widely recognised usage.

glitteringprincess said...

New Zealander here, so closer to British English than American. I have never ever heard of dressing used in that way. Dressing to me is a liquid you pour over salad. Amazing the things you learn!

New Zealand and Australian English has a lot of differences as well, it would be cool to include them in your blogs some time.

lynneguist said...

I'm leaving NZE & AusE for someone else's blog...having never been to either country, I'm not the right person to do it!

biochemist said...

Trimmings! Nobody has picked up David Crosbie's use of 'the trimmings' to cover the (AmE) 'side dishes' in his multinational turkey feast. In my canteen today we had 'traditional Christmas dinner' of roast turkey, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, stuffing balls, pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce and gravy. No bread sauce unfortunately. The latter are 'the trimmings' - what lifts the meal above a regular Sunday roast lunch. The paper hats, crackers and fancy napkins help too. My US colleague told me he has never heard 'dressing' used for stuffing - or for 'the trimmings'.

Dru and David Crosbie - health risks arise where the domestic cook has not calculated the final weight of the stuffed bird correctly, the interior is not fully cooked and the carcase has not been cooled quickly, hence the instructions to stuff the neck end (you can always put a sliced lemon inside the beast): another advantage of the stuffed neck is that the external lump can be sliced by the carver rather than excavated....

Anonymous said...

I'm American, in my 60s from Ohio. Our family always used the word dressing. When others used stuffing it sounded strange to my ears. I do think here in the US people think dressing is for salads, stuffing is for putting in when you roast meat.

Anonymous said...

As a foodie (ie an amateur home cook) in South Florida who was constantly looking up recipes this Thanksgiving, I came to the conclusion that, in the context of the stuff you either put inside poultry when you roast it or serve along side it, "stuffing" refers to a savory dish made with bread & other flavorings (despite whether or not it's actually cooked inside the bird), and "dressing" is the same thing but with rice instead of bread. "Salad dressing" or just plain "dressing" in most any other context of course refers to the liquidy stuff you put on a salad (or sometimes other dishes, such as broccoli or macaroni salad) to give it flavor.

Robbie said...

I'd better say something about Biochemist's description of "all the trimmings", before the US readers start gagging:

UK pigs in blankets = chipolatas or other small sausages wrapped in bacon, a traditional festive turkey "trimming"

US pigs in blankets = hot dogs wrapped and baked inside a bread or pastry case, a casual light meal

Having grown up in the US (St Louis suburbs) I have heard stuffing called "dressing", but that wasn't the usual term in our family.

I must admit that I like US-style stuffing (based on chunks of bread) better than UK-style (based on sausagemeat and breadcrumbs), as a rule. However, the UK-style stuffing is designed to be eaten in fairly small amounts along with the meat, like a sauce or relish. US-style is more an independent side dish.

kostia said...

I know other people say "dressing" but our family (mostly raised in Ohio) never have. We have "in-bird stuffing" (cooked in the turkey, served in a dish) and "out-of-bird stuffing" (cooked in a dish, served in a dish).

Anonymous said...

Robbie - In my experience UK-style stuffing is not made with sausagemeat. The breadcrumbs/herbs mix contains fat (to baste the bird internally), but the sausages are cooked outside the turkey!

Kate (Derby, UK)

Julie said...

I'm 51, a 5-generation native of northern California. I've always understood "dressing" and "stuffing" as synonyms.My 80-year-old mother prefers "dressing" Not sure which I prefer, since I really don't care for the stuff and let someone else make it. But if it's Thanksgiving morning, dressing is the stuff that goes in the turkey. The stuff on the salad is "salad dressing."

jpeeps said...

[UK b 1958] Here's another usage of dress(ing) applicable in the UK - what the butcher does before you buy your fowl. You may well be lucky enough to have one that sells you a dressed turkey - trussed, trimmed and ready to be shoved in the oven, and possibly, if you weren't keen on the kitchen, a stuffed one too. Actually, a "dressed, stuffed turkey" isn't a great example as in this day and age it would be difficult to come by a bird that hadn't been "dressed", but "a brace of dressed, stuffed pheasant" still has some meaning. In the UK you can still see unplucked game for sale - I'm not sure if that's ever been the case in the US.

John Burgess said...

@Canadian: I see one important difference. In the sausage stuffings/dressings with which I'm familiar, the sausage is cooked first, before being mixed with the mashed potatoes and other ingredients. That would move it out of the meatloaf/paté corner pretty quickly!

David Crosbie said...

jpeeps

"dressed, stuffed turkey"

This rang a bell with me, but my memory settled on the wrong song. Having slept on it, I remember where to find it:

I heard the voice of a pork chop say
'Come unto me and rest'
You talk about liver, stew and beans
But I know what's the best
That's pork, chop, veal chop, ham and eggs
Turkey stuffed and dressed
I heard the voice of a pork chop say
'Come unto me and rest'


This is the chorus to a song recorded twice in 1928, by Jim Jackson and by Bogus Ben Covington. In both versions, one verse ends with the wonderful lines

My stomach sent a telegram to my throat
'There's a wreck on the road somewhere'


And between verses, Jim Jackson comments over his guitar picking:

Oh sure! Ain't that good? Oh, ain't that nice? Ain't it nice to be nice when you can be nice?

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

@ Kate - it must be a family thing, as in my (British) family, stuffing almost always contains sausagemeat! Back in the day, my mother would make two different kinds of stuffing - sausagemeat for one end and chestnut for the other - but these days it tends to be all-in-one! And very good it is, too. This is as well as any sausages that may or may not be cooked outside the turkey (not invariably, in my family; bacon, yes!).

Jordana said...

I'm a 30 year old Bostonian (with an English fiance) and had never heard of calling stuffing "dressing" until a television commercial sometime before Thanksgiving tried to convince me there was some great debate about it. (Reminds me of the "sauce" vs "gravy" arguments regarding tomato sauce.)

A quick informal poll of my mother and grandmother (also both native to Boston) tells me that both of them will say dressing with some level of comfort, but I would swear I've never in my life heard either of them say as such.

Anonymous said...

@David Crosbie (who probably isn't following this any more): the problem with stuffing the stuffing into the cavity of the bird is that cooking the stuffing to the proper temperature (165 degF) would result in the breast meat of the bird being bone-dry.

@all: Traditionally, the "'white' potatoes" which are mashed to go along with formal dinners were Russet Burbanks (a variety developed in the early part of the last century by plant-improvement maven Luther Burbank, and by several orders of magnitude the most common potato variety in American because of its ideal shape for making "shoestring" french fries). Nowadays many people make mashed potatoes from the semi-waxy variety Yukon Gold, which is more forgiving to overmashing (where high-starch Russet Burbanks just get gluey).

biochemist said...

I've just realised that the phrase 'mutton dressed as lamb' may have a literal, culinary meaning as well as that of a woman clothed inappropriately girlishly. After all, a stringy old sheep would take a good deal of preparation to serve up in the same way as a tender young animal.

biochemist said...

Astonishingly, The Times has a feature today on Marilyn Monroe's notebooks - and it gives her recipe for a turkey dinner in 1955, when she was setting up house with Arthur Miller. The stuffing contains sourdough French bread, chicken giblets (boiled and chopped), onion, parsley, chopped celery, salt, pepper, herbs, grated parmesan, minced beef, raisins, chopped nuts and chopped hard-boiled eggs. The beef, bread and raisins are the major ingredients. This is a meal in itself! The Times cooked it separately from the bird, which was roasted with onion and some spices and - wait for it! - basted twice during cooking with an oil and vinegar dressing.
It all sounds very strange, particularly the beef in the stuffing, but it seems it tasted good.

dang it said...

51, born and raised in Illinois but of Southern heritage. I grew up with the term dressing and knew it to be what others referred to as stuffing and I still say dressing.

Someone asked why you would cook dressing outside the bird and it has nothing to do with the possibility of salmonella poisoning. A lot of families in the Southern US make a pan of dressing at times of the year other Thanksgiving or Christmas, as a side dish. Also, my mother, at least, would boil a chicken and then pull the meat off the bones which would then be mixed into the dressing before baking. Don't knock it til you've tried it!

becky said...

American with many Thanksgivings in Masssachusetts (and a few in New Jersey). I've never heard anybody use these as synonyms--dressing is what goes on the salad.

We often had some stuffing on the table that hadn't actually been stuffed in the bird (for the vegetarian), but would never have called it anything but stuffing.

Ted said...

I grew up in the NY suburbs, and my experience is the same as that of Becky.

lynneguist said...

Meanwhile, my parents said it on Skype on Thursday. There are probably generational as well as regional differences here.

Cate Clough said...

My mother was sent to boarding school in Canada and lived in Wisconsin. We call "stuffing" dressing and once in a while, slip and say "Happy Christmas". Tough when you live in Buffalo.