There’s a lot more to stuffing than sage and onion, and that applies whether you cook it inside the bird or separately
Is stuffing still stuffing when it doesn’t get stuffed? Even if such riddles are not the stuff (sorry!) to fuel your Christmas conversations, stuffing should certainly be on the table for your Christmas meal. And whether or not you stuff your stuffing inside the bird is a matter of opinion. The advantage of putting the stuffing inside a turkey or chicken before roasting is that it will then absorb all the flavour and juices that develop while the bird cooks. However, this can be to the detriment of the meat, which runs the risk of overcooking and drying out in the time it takes for the stuffing to cook through properly and be ready to eat.
This is certainly the case with denser stuffings that feature, say, sausagemeat, but it’s not something that affects the lighter stuffings I prefer. In today’s chicken recipe, for example, I give you the best and greediest (and most controlled experiment) of all: enough stuffing to fit inside the cavity with some left over to bake alone.
Generally, though, I prefer to cook my stuffing separately, be that as a tray bake or as individual balls or even muffins. I love the way it gets crisp all over when cooked that way and, perhaps even more, I love the opportunity this provides to challenge the pre-eminent role of any big bird at the table. Rather than playing second fiddle to the main act, I want my stuffing (along with all the other side dishes) to be loud, proud and delicious enough to stand alone.