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Taste Test: Store-Bought Stuffing

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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

The Winners!

Best Overall: Martin's Potatobread Stuffing

Runner-Up: Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing

Most Like Stovetop: Stovetop

It's that time of the year again. For those of you who missed last year's tasting, here's a summary of the results.

We should first clarify, this tasting was actually with "dressings" not "stuffings," since we baked them in casserole pans, not inside the turkey's hollowed-out body. But for the record, we'll probably keep calling it stuffing since the proper terminology may cause confusion. Some people hear dressing and just picture a big bottle of Ranch—and we didn't eat pans of that.

We tried the following nationally available brands: Stovetop, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods 365, Martin's Potato Rolls, Pepperidge Farms (both Herb-Seasoned and Cornbread), and Canterbury Organics.

The Criteria

Why the Losers Lost

Much of it came down to texture. Two very common offenses = too soggy or too dry. It shouldn't be gooey, as in approximating mashed potatoes or soggy bread pudding. Nor should it be a tray of cardboard croutons.

Winner: Martin's Potatobread Stuffing

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We love our burgers on Martin's potato rolls, so it made perfect sense that we'd love Martin's Potatobread Stuffing. Made with the familiar squishy, just-a-smidge sweet bread, the discernible chunks (not bread dust as with others) weren't too soggy or dry. Though this was on the sweeter side, maybe even a little too sweet for some, there was something addictive about the flavor. We didn't grow up eating it, but really liked it—which is saying a lot for stuffing purists.

Martin's is a Pennsylvania-based company so distribution is mostly limited to the Northeast, but you can call 1-800-548-1200 to order any of the products.

Runner-Up: Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing

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There's definitely no shame in starting with a boxed mix and adding your own flair, and Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing might be as classic as it gets for stuffing foundations. Now that tastes like stuffing. The flavor isn't super life-changing but that's part of what makes it such a great base for adding apples, nuts, sausage, and fresh herbs. Crunchy on the top and not too in-your-face salty, it could definitely benefit from some additions.

Tastes Most Like Stovetop: Stovetop

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Eating Stovetop is kind of like eating Cheerios. There are really no surprises—you know exactly what it's going to taste like. Stovetop will never throw a curveball at you. The same red box—whether in Turkey, Chicken, Savory Herbs, or the Traditional Sage flavor—still has that little seasoning packet full of salty, factory-engineered herbs. It sort of breaks our "balanced herbiness" rule, but we can't help but crave it on a leftovers turkey sandwich the next day. Is that so wrong?

How to Doctor It Up

So You Really Want to Make it From Scratch?

Wild Mushroom Stuffing (vegetarian)
Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Stuffing
Mark Bittman's Favorite Stuffing
Dried Cranberry, Apricot, and Fig Stuffing from Bon Appétit
Pecan Cornbread Dressing from Everyday Food

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