Some claim the distinction is whether the dish in question is stuffed inside the bird or baked in a casserole dish, but some Southeners do indeed stuff their birds with cornbread “dressing” and Northerners bake white bread stuffing in a dish.
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So, let’s go to the maps. Using Google Correlate, it’s easy to see that the top states searching for dressing recipes and those searching for stuffing recipes, don’t overlap. The top state searching for dressing recipes is Mississippi, closely followed by Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia. But the map for stuffing shows that Northern states like Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Montana are the biggest searchers. In fact, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana barely search for the term at all.
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In conclusion, if you’re a Northerner heading to your Southern in-laws, you should make an effort to call it dressing, and if you’re a Southerner heading up North for Thanksgiving, don’t be surprised if everyone looks at you like you might as well be from Mars for not calling it stuffing. As for the Southern Living Test Kitchen, we’re solidly on team dressing.
Still, no matter where you are and what it's called, the most important thing should be that it tastes great. So whether you're "stuffing" it into the turkey or "dressing" your sliced turkey with it, just make sure it's delicious!