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What is the difference between sauce and dressing? Their purpose seems to be the same.

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In general, sauces are cooked whereas dressings are uncooked.

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  • Turkey dressing is cooked. – tchrist Mar 11 '12 at 16:28
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    @tchrist - I don't know how your mother made it, but I think most people would agree that turkey dressing is a different kind of dressing than what might be confused with a sauce. The problem with trying to treat commonly used words as jargon words - which is what OP is doing in his question - is that there are always going to be lots of examples where the jargon is not used consistently by people who don't treat the words as jargon. – Joel Brown Mar 11 '12 at 16:32
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    I think that may be an American thing. To my mind, dressing the turkey results in trimmings, not dressing. Inconsistent, I know, but language is weird sometimes. Or do you mean that turkey gravy is called dressing? – Christi Mar 11 '12 at 20:17
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    @Christi - I'm inclined to agree. Gravy isn't the dressing, at least I've never heard the term used that way. I'm pretty sure that when people say "turkey dressing" they are referring to what I would tend to call "stuffing". – Joel Brown Mar 11 '12 at 21:34
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Dressing and sauce each have several non-overlapping senses in which they differ. The noun dressing has meanings "Material applied to a wound for protection or therapy", "Something added to the soil as a fertilizer etc.", a scolding ("dressing down"), and "The activity of getting dressed", as well as "A sauce, especially a cold one for salads." The noun sauce has meanings like booze ("on the sauce") and impertinence or sauciness ("answered back with sauce") among others, besides "a liquid (often thickened) condiment or accompaniment to food."

While sauce almost never refers to salad dressings (such as salad cream), dressing for its part sometimes refers to oil, vinegar, etc. as a sauce or marinade for meats.

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Dressing is only used in the context of salad. It would be incorrect to say that a salad was in a sauce.

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    While salads only have dressings, not sauces, many other things have dressings. Thanksgiving turkey, for example, is served with a stuffing or dressing. – David Schwartz Mar 11 '12 at 16:04

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