Okay, first lets clear this up, Stuffing goes inside you bird and is usually a little dryer(to allow it to soak up juices) and very highly seasoned, and gets it yummy flavor from soaking up all those juices from inside the turkey, and helps to flavor the bird. Dressing is made in a baking dish, outside of your bird and is usually made with some kind of pork product and stock to give it moisture and flavor.
Every year I go back and forth in my head, am I going to stuff my bird or make dressing? Lets face it if you stuff your bird it will take longer to cook so keep that in mind. So if you make dressing you will cut your cooking time down by about an hour, but you take up extra space in your oven. It is Thanksgiving, you don't get to have that yummy stuffing throughout the year so I truly think its worth the extra cooking time and effort, just get started a little earlier or plan dinner a little later. I remember my Mom and Dad getting up at 4 am to get the turkey washed, stuffed and in the oven on time for dinner at noon on Thanksgiving day. It seamed like that turkey cooked forever, and the dryness factor proved that.
Food safety guideline have changer over the years but there are still some that apply.
Never pre stuff your bird even for an hour stuffing is a hot bed for bacteria. Cook the thigh meat to 165 degrees at the thickest point being sure you don't touch the bone with your thermometer.But more about that later. Here are some recipes to get you thinking.
Papa's Sausage Dressing
1 bag of that pre seasoned bread stuffing mix not the cubes the crumbly one
1 lb Jimmy Deans sage breakfast sausage
1/2 stick butter
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 Tb. spicy brown mustard
1 Tb. poultry seasoning
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 -3 cups chicken stock
Pour stuffing mix into a large bowl set aside
in a large frying pan break the sausage up and cook through, add in the celery and onion, cook until translucent.
Off the heat add in the poultry seasoning, thyme, mustard and parsley start adding in the chicken stock a little at a time until your dressing is wet but not soupy it should look like wet sand. Put into a baking dish, cover and bake at 350 for 45 min. uncover for the last 15 min. You can baste with additional chicken stock wile it is baking, about 1/2 cup half way through.
Mom's Bread Stuffing
25 slices of stale white bread
1 stick butter
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced onion
2 tsp salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tb. Poultry seasoning
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half
Break the bread in to 1 inch pieces, place in large bowl set aside
In a large saute pan melt butter, add celery, onion, salt and pepper, cook until translucent.
stir in poultry seasoning and pour over dices bread.
In a med. bowl mix chicken stock, half and half and egg. Pour over bread and vegetables and mix lightly .Mix should be wet but not dripping kind of like a very stiff oatmeal.
Salt and pepper the inside of your bird and place stuffing into the cavity loosely it will expand a bit. You can also put some of the stuffing in the front neck area under the large flap of skin. Just tuck the skin under the bird when you put it in the roasting pan.
Roast your turkey according to the recommendation on the wrapper or
9-18 lb unstuffed 3-3 1/2 hrs stuffed 3 3/4 - 4 1/2 hrs.
18-22 lb. unstuffed 3 1/4 4 hrs. stuffed 4 1/2 - 5 hrs.
loosely covered until last hour baste throughout entire cooking time.