Stale Bread Vs. Dried: Which Is Best For Stuffing?

With fall finally upon us, it is easy to start thinking about the foods most associated with the season. Thick, creamy soups, hearty stews, and pumpkin-infused desserts are finally able to be savored. Stuffing, a warm, bread-y, and herby dish, is typically associated with Thanksgiving dinner, but is a perfect side dish for any autumnal meal.

Most recipes recommend using stale bread to make stuffing. Since bread is the base of the dish, it will give the dish its shape, structure, and texture, according to Kitchn. The site notes that if fresh bread, or any type of soft bread, is used, the stuffing will become soggy and soupy.

The typical advice to acquire stale bread is to cube it up and leave it on the countertop for a few days. It will dry out and become hard, making it an ideal texture to hold up in the dish. However, this technique is a time-consuming process, and Serious Eats argues that there are much easier and better ways to make dry bread.

Use your oven

Staling bread and drying bread are different processes that could have different outcomes on the stuffing, depending on which is used. Drying bread is simply the extraction of moisture occurring from evaporation. This process allows the crumb's structure to remain intact, but still achieves the desired stiffness and crispiness (via Serious Eats). Meanwhile, staling is the "migration of moisture from swollen starch granules into airy pockets within the bread. Those starch molecules then recrystallize, yielding a texture that's tough rather than cracker-y." 

According to Serious Eats, drying is a better option — and Cook's Illustrated agrees. They made homemade bread crumbs, one batch through staling and the other through drying, and added the crumbs to measuring cups with 3 ounces of water in each. After sitting for 10 minutes, they tried to de-mold the mixtures. The stale bread came right out of the cup in a sludgy mess, while the dried bread was solid. They concluded from this, "stale bread may feel firm and dry, but it has hidden reserves of water."

To avoid a tough texture, or a liquid-y mess, Serious Eats recommends putting your bread cubes in the oven. Heat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 45 minutes, occasionally tossing. Once done, they can be cooled and stored in a plastic bag for a few days at room temperature.