Stuffing Vs. Dressing: What You're Looking for Depends on Where You Live

Siobhan Adcock

Italian Sausage and Bread StuffingItalian Sausage and Bread StuffingWe recently decided to settle an internal debate about whether the essential Thanksgiving side dish was called "stuffing" or "dressing" by most people. Being logical, my colleagues reminded me that if it's cooked alongside the bird, it's technically called "dressing," and if it's cooked inside the bird, it would be called "stuffing." Being a gigantic nerd, my first thought was, "I know! I'm going to look at a big spreadsheet full of data!"

The data in question was internal search data for the months of October and November this year and last year: peak Thanksgiving search season for "stuffing," "dressing," and related terms. Here's what I found:

1. "Dressing" as a search term is almost exclusively Southern. In two years of peak-season search queries, only one state north of the Mason Dixon was home to any cooks searching for "dressing." Guess which state? Hint: Starts with I, ends with "owa." Who knew.

2. Southerners who are looking for "dressing" know pretty specifically what they want:
Alabamans, Arkansans, Louisianans, and Mississippians search for "cornbread dressing." And some traditional-minded Louisianans search for "John Besh Oyster Dressing."


3. "Stuffing" is far and away the preferred search term
for the side dish, even in most states where people are also searching for "dressing." The only states where more people search for "dressing" than "stuffing" are on the Gulf Coast: Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. (In Mississippi, "stuffing" as a term didn't even crack the top 50.)

4. In a number of Southern states, regardless of whether you call it "dressing" or "stuffing," not that many people are calling for it. Bready side dish recipes are just not as frequently searched down south as they are in other states. In Alabama, for example, stuffing ranks as the #40 most searched term and dressing is #25. In Louisiana, stuffing is #20 and dressing is #19. In Kentucky, stuffing is #17 and dressing isn't even a top 50 term. In Arkansas, dressing is #44 and stuffing is #23. These are real outliers considering that...

5. ...In 33 out of 50 states, "stuffing" is one of the top ten searched terms during the peak Thanksgiving recipe search season.

6. In Utah and Nevada, people reaaaalllly love their homemade stuffing
. In these two states, stuffing is the #3 most searched term, its highest ranking anywhere. Above even pie, or cranberry sauce. I guess not everybody puts dessert first? And remember Iowa, the lone northern state where some perhaps displaced southerners are looking for dressing? "Stuffing" comes in at #4 there.

Stuffing, dressing, the yummy stuff underneath all my gravy...What's it called in your house? Whatever you call it, if you're making it this Thanksgiving, you'll want to check out the essential stuffing how-to.

Shown:
Italian Sausage and Bread Stuffing, one of the top-rated stuffing recipes on Epicurious