A must-have for Thanksgiving dinner and a welcome addition to any meal of pork chops or chicken, bread stuffing is well worth the time and effort it takes to prepare the ingredients and cook the stuffing. Homemade stuffing with aromatic vegetables and additional ingredients of your own choosing will almost always taste better than a store-bought variety, which might be over-salted and lacking in those ingredients you like best.
Any type of bread works for stuffing, as long as it is dry enough to soak up flavorful stock or meat juices. Choose a commercial bread stuffing mix or French bread, sandwich bread, raisin bread or, for a low-carb stuffing, cornbread or gluten-free bread. If the bread is fresh, toast cubes in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes until they dry out, or leave the bread to age for a few days before making the stuffing.
Most bread stuffing starts with a mirepoix -- a mix of chopped onions; celery; herbs, such as sage and thyme; and, optionally, carrots, cooked in butter or oil until they are soft. Measurements before cooking should be about half as many cups of mirepoix ingredients as the amount of bread cubes. Add about a cup each of any or all additional ingredients for each 10 cups of bread that you like: Choose from cooked sausage; Swiss chard; mushrooms; or reconstituted dried cranberries, raisins or cherries.
Wet ingredients bind the stuffing together and keep it moist. Use about 1 cup of liquid, such as chicken stock or a mix of chicken stock and cream, for each 10 cups of bread. Some recipes also call for a whole egg or 2 to help keep the stuffing moist. Once you've mixed the stuffing together, you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 1 day before cooking it, but never stuff a turkey ahead of time, because that gives dangerous bacteria a chance to multiply.
A greased baking dish containing about 10 cups of stuffing takes about 1 hour to cook in a 350 F oven. Keep the dish covered with foil for a moister stuffing or bake it uncovered for stuffing with a crisp top. You can lessen the cooking time for the stuffing by microwaving it for 15 minutes before immediately placing the dish in the oven. Stuffing needs to reach a temperature of 165 F on an instant-read meat thermometer to ensure that it is safe to eat.