There’s no difference between stuffing and dressing, according to The Food Lover’s Companion. Both are mixtures “used to stuff poultry, fish, meat and some vegetables.”
“This comes up every year,” says Leo Pearlstein, who does media relations for Mrs. Cubbison’s Foods Incorporated and has worked with the stuffing maker since 1950. Pearlstein thinks people started using the term dressing because “the notion of ‘stuffing’ didn’t sound so mannerly,” a sentiment echoed in a recent AP article.
The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word stuffing dates back to 1538 and is defined as “forcemeat or other seasoned mixture used to fill the body of a fowl, a hollow in a joint of meat, etc., before cooking.” The OED entry for dressing is less specific and states that it is “the seasoning substance used in cooking; stuffing; the sauce, etc.”
The Joy of Cooking differentiates between the two by saying it’s stuffing if you put it in the bird, and dressing if you serve it on the side, but the National Turkey Federation says that “both terms are used interchangeably.”
Bottom line: Call it whatever you feel comfortable saying, and enjoy.
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