Next up came stuffing. In chats with supermarket shoppers, I found the main choice came down to Stove Top stuffing vs. homemade. Arguably, this has the most “active” time of any of the traditional side dishes. There’s chopping and sauteing involved. I made this dish twice, once manually cutting up the vegetables as a home cook’s pace and a second time using a food processor which dramatically cut the prep time. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of cutting up bread and letting it go stale or toasting it in an oven. In the photo left, the boxed version is in the upper pan, the homemade version is in the lower pan.
With a $1.29 loaf of bread, an onion, some celery, carrots, garlic, an egg and some broth, stuffing comes in an inexpensive, yet filling side dish. The total cost of making a pan of stuffing came out to $4.23 for about 12 servings using a 99 cent can of chicken stock. If you used your own stock or used bouillon, it cuts the cost to around $3.24 to serve a dozen.
Process: Saute vegetables until softened. Add dried bread cubes and seasoning. Then add stock, egg and transfer to casserole and bake for 35 minutes. (See my favorite stuffing recipe.)
Active time: 16 minutes (11 with a processor)
Total time: 46 minutes (41 with a processor)
Cost per 1/2 cup serving: 35 cents
Ingredients: BREAD, ONION, CHICKEN OR TURKEY STOCK, CELERY, CARROT, EGG, GARLIC, DRIED SAGE, DRIED THYME, SALT, PEPPER
StoveTop Stuffing vs. Homemade
Noticeably high in sodium, as prepared it has 20% of daily sodium intake in a half cup. The box states six 1/2-cup servings. I talked to a woman at the supermarket purchasing this product who said she made it regularly and found it “yielded perhaps three to four” servings at dinner. “At Thanksgiving, people take large portions, so I am planning on making three or four boxes for eight people.” The top two ingredients are bread and high-fructose corn syrup. While the box cheerfully promises “with real turkey broth,” the ingredients list notes that it is less than 2 percent of the overall ingredients. It also contains high-fructose corn syrup, an ingredient some research has linked to diabetes, and partially hydrogenated oil, linked to high cholesterol.
Process: Melt 1/4 cup 53 percent vegetable oil spread stick into 1 1/2 cups water. Add pouch to boiling water, cover and remove from heat. Let stand five minutes, fluff with a fork.
Active time: 3 minutes
Total time: 7 minutes
Cost: $1.39 per box + .18 cents in margarine
Cost per 1/2 cup serving: 26 cents
Ingredients: ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN, MONONITRATE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIIN (VITAMIN B2), FOLIC ACID, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, ONIONS*, SALT, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2 PERCENT OF PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND/OR COTTONSEED OIL,HYDROLYZED SOY PROTEIN, COOKED TURKEY AND TURKEY BROTH, YEAST CELERY*, PARSLEY*, TURMERIC, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, SILICON DIOXIDE AS AN ANTI-CAKING AGENT, MALTODEXTRIN, NATURAL FLAVOR WITH BHA, BHT, CITRIC ACID AND PROPYL GALLATE AS PRESERVATIVES. *INDICATES DRIED
Homemade stuffing: 7
Boxed stuffing: 0
All seven firefighters favored the homemade version, but at least three noted that the boxed version was good. Among their comments:
- “This one [homemade version] has a lot more flavor. I can taste the vegetables in it.”
- “They’re both good, but the [homemade] stuffing tasted like it could have come out of the bird.”
- “I eat [boxed stuffing] so I knew the flavor right away. It’s not bad, but more salty and dry in comparison.”
- “The homemade stuffing is more aesthetically pleasing.”
Conclusion: When it comes to Stove Top stuffing vs. homemade, the two simply do not taste the same. Given many people are familiar with its specific flavor, there’s really no way to pass it off to guests as something made from scratch, no matter how much you doctor it up. While it certainly has its fans — and your crew may be among them — some may find the high salt unpalatable. While boxed stuffing might be a weeknight staple, consider that this is a once-a-year meal that might be worth of the extra effort and give a recipe like this one by my friend Elise Bauer a try.
If you don’t want to save time and not bother with drying out bread, look for bags of unseasoned or seasoned dried bread croutons that show up in supermarkets around Thanksgiving and start with those.