The Great Firehouse Challenge: Packaged vs. Homemade Holiday Dinner Classics

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Kat and the fire guysFor years, a relative of mine served boxed stuffing at her holiday gatherings, spiced up with cut-up pre-cooked turkey sausage. When I offered to make some homemade stuffing one year, she waved me off. “No one can the tell the difference, anyway.”

This made me wonder. How do real mashed potatoes, gravy, fresh green beans and cranberry sauce stack up to their processed cousins? What about supermarket turkey versus a fresh, organic bird?

There’s only one way to find out.

I made two dinners with classic holiday side dishes — mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans and cranberry sauce. The catch: one featured all homemade sides, and the other were made from a box, can or jar.

I needed objective judges. Fortunately, there’s a group of pros more than up for the task: the guys on Shift A at the Station 1 in Holmes Beach, Fla.

The next few pages break down each of the dinner components by hassle factor, price, time and specific flavor comments from the firefighters. You’ll find links to most of the recipes, too.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" and "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good." All are published by Viking/Penguin.


  1. Really really interesting read. Thank you so much for taking your time and putting enormous efforts into composing this article.
    Enjoyed it, as always 🙂

  2. J Abernathy says:

    Awesome idea for a post. My grandmother always made stuffing from a box and I never really liked it that well. When I met my girlfriend she made it from scratch, it was like a whole different dish. Thanks for taking a classic dinner and the easy shortcuts and doing such a thoughtful piece on this. Lucky firefighters!

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  1. […] The result? Find out in our in-depth look – plus get my favorite recipes — in the Firehouse Challenge on my new site, Share this:TwitterEmailFacebookPrintMoreDiggStumbleUponRedditLike […]

  2. […] 13, 2012 By katflinn Leave a Comment Print […]

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