Oven-Dried vs. Stale Bread for Stuffing

What's the difference between using oven-dried bread and stale bread for stuffing? Why does stuffing made with stale bread turn out slimy?

We made two batches of our Back-to-Basics Bread Stuffing (see related content), one according to the instructions (dry diced bread for almost 1 hour at 325 degrees) and the other with bread that we had diced and left out to stale. Both batches of bread felt dry and hard, but when we mixed in the liquid, the counter-staled bread disintegrated into a paste, while the oven-dried bread stayed more or less intact. We baked both batches and then called over some tasters. The stuffing made with dried bread came out moist and tender; not surprisingly, the one with staled bread was gluey and wet. To figure out why, we did some research, and here’s what we learned: The dried bread felt dry and hard because it had lost moisture in the oven and actually was dry. The stale bread, on the other hand, only felt dry. When bread goes stale, the starch crystallizes, locking the bread’s moisture inside the starch crystals, which makes the bread feel hard and dry even though it still contains most of its original moisture. So when we added the liquid to the staled bread, we were adding liquid to already-moist bread, which is why the result was wet and pasty.

THE BOTTOM LINE: If your stuffing recipe calls for oven-dried bread, stale bread is not a good substitute: The stuffing will be too wet.

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