Thanksgiving Meal Disasters and Tips On How to Avoid Them.

By Melissa Shrader Editor/Publisher Fort Collins Macaroni Kid November 15, 2018

I have some friends who have shared their “Good & Bad”experiences with Thanksgiving meal stories. Hope you enjoy. 

"We had no idea what to expect when we tried for the very first time to deep fry a turkey!  We followed directions carefully...and the turkey came out BLACK,totally black!  We were mortified, and we had a house-full of guests! (We had another turkey roasting in the oven in the traditional way, just wanted to try this). Everyone was asking how the fried turkey came out! And actually, it was awesome!!!!!  Just looked terrible. :)" -Julie

"Last year while shopping for the turkey, my kids wanted to demonstrate their strength so they took turns ”lifting” the turkey.  Then one of them decided to give it back without warning Mommy first and the 15 lb frozen turkey landed on my toe!  I sobbed my way through the checkout line.  It wasn't broken but I did lose the nail and here we are nearly a year later and that formal still isn't back to normal.  A funny note from all this,though: during my x-ray the technicians told me Thanksgiving is one of their busiest times of the year!" – Becky

One year we went to my mother in laws house, mom had everything set. We girls brought sides and desserts. Everything looked great and was wonderful. We were all enjoying the holiday and socializing and about 2 hours after we arrives someone asked “When is dinner?” Well Mom went to check on the Turkey (24 lbs).She came into the room and announced that she had forgotten to turn on the oven! Keep in mind that we were expecting to eat around 4pm. She checked at 3pm. A 24 lb turkey won’t  be done in 1 hour. So what we did was take chicken breasts out of the freezer and baked them. Mom had turkey the next day. – Melissa 

Want to avoid having someone tell a “Thanksgiving Story”about you? 

How to create a great Thanksgiving meal. 

Some things to remember. 

Thaw your turkey slloooowwwwllyy (slowly that is). This method to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator. You will need to plan ahead. 20 lb turkeys take about 5 days to defrost. 

Consider roasting time! Be sure to calculate your cooking time with these guidelines in mind. If you are cooking a 24 lb turkey like my mother in law was you need to put it in early because it takes about 4 ½ - 5 ¼hours depending on if it’s stuffed or not. 

Do you like stuffed? Do you cook the stuffing inside or outside the bird? If you stuff the turkey you will need to add some extra cooking time. Important! Do Not Over Stuff. This could lead to a raw middle and salmonella stuffing. Possibly a trip to the E.R. No one wants that. I personally cook the stuffing on the side. I put herbs in the cavity to create flavor throughout the turkey. Again don’t over stuff. I do a cheese cloth stuffed with herbs so it’s easy to remove. Use the herbs you like. Dry or fresh. It depends on you. I use fresh as the flavor is stronger.  The other perk is that the house smells FANTASTIC! 

Do you want a moist turkey? I have a friend who wraps her turkey with muslin. You can use cheese cloth too. It works the same. Take the cloth of choice and dip it into melted butter. Place it on the turkey, then cover the whole turkey with foil. At the last ½ hour remove the foil and let the turkey continue to cook. You can also cover the drumsticks and wings with foil to prevent burning. I also love to put liquid in the roaster. I use apple cider, apple juice, chicken stock or just water. I love to add a little dimension to the turkey with different flavors too and adding the liquid is an easy way to do that. You can also put your favorite fruit in the cavity of the turkey to add moisture. Do not stuff the cavity with the fruit just put a small amount inside. I use 1/2 an apple, or 1/4 cup pineapple, and on occasion I've added 1/4 cup cranberries. 

Do Not Open The Oven Every Few Minutes. I have a family member that does this all the time with everything she cooks, broils, bakes,etc. Even rice on the oven. She peeks all the time. If you open the door you will dry out the turkey if you open the door a lot and you will increase your cooking time. 

Measure the inside temperature. There are 2 places to check the bird if you stuffed it. One if not stuffed. For both stuffed and unstuffed. Check the temperature at the thigh. It should read no less than 180 degrees F. If stuffed take the temperature of the stuffing. It should be no less than 165 degrees F. 

After the turkey is cooked, take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest before you carve it. I know there are quite a few hungry people hangin around but they can wait. The turkey needs about 20 minutes rest time to keep the heat and moisture in. This is the time to complete anything you need to for dinner. Make the gravy, bake the rolls, get the salads and refrigerated items out and set up all of the sides. Once this is done then you can carve the turkey. 

Thanksgiving day Problems? Trouble shooting Thanksgiving Dinner. 

Solutions to familiar problems, stories of Thanksgivings past and Tips for a great holiday meal. 

Problem 1: Failure to plan. 

This can lead to a few problems. You can avoid this by making a few lists. Begin with the guest list. This will ensure you plan appropriately for many things. Food, beverage, sides, dessert, tableware,seating, and so on. If you write down your guest list you will be sure to have enough of everything.  Something that I’ve learned to do since we sometimes have friends at our table, is to ask about allergies.  You never know and it’s better safe than sorry. 

Problem 2: You find all your dishes are not going to be done at the same time.

For example the turkey is taking longer than expected, the broccoli is done, and the potatoes got burnt. The solution? Make some of the food ahead of time. Bake the pies ahead of time. Prepare the salad the night before. Make as much as possible ahead of time. If that boat has sailed and you are at crunch time don’t be afraid to reheat things in the microwave or keep them on simmer or low on the stove top. Remember to keep stirring things like potatoes as they can scorch on the bottom. 

Problem 3: The oven or stove top is too full. 

Try to the planning ahead. Make the pies the day before.Make other sides etc. ahead of time. Consider deep frying your turkey or grilling the turkey. If you’re guests are in your kitchen looking at the burners like a prized item bring out the slow cooker. Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and other side dishes work wonderfully in them. Don’t forget to simply wrap the food in foil to keep the heat in. I sometime travel with food first wrapped in foil then a towel and finally another layer of foil. This gives an insulation around the container and keeps it warm longer. 

Problem 4: Ok, someone forgot to thaw the turkey. Now what?

Take it out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator at least 3 days. You will need to add additional cooking time to it but it will be ok. If you discovered your turkey is still in the freezer on Thanksgiving morning, there is still hope. First submerge your turkey in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes per pound. You can also cook a frozen turkey it will just take longer. About 40 minutes per pound. If you are truly desperate you can thaw the turkey in the microwave (if it fits). This takes about 60 to 90 minutes possibly longer depending on its weight. 

Problem 5: The turkey turned out dry! 

This is something that has happened to almost every cook. To avoid this try to check the bird’s internal temperature every 30 minutes. This will help you avoid over cooking it. For the juiciest meat, after roasting,allow the turkey to rest at least 30 minutes. The longer you let the turkey rest the juicer it will be. If you want to get truly serious, after you remove the turkey be very careful and wrap it in foil. Then cover it with a towel.Then you can let it rest about 60 minutes. I’ve seen recommendations from 60 minutes to 2 hours. I don’t know about you but if I’ve already cooked the turkey for 4 hours I’m not to sure I want to wait another 2 hours to eat!   Also the muslin trick works wonderfully as well. Take a cheese cloth or muslin and soak it in butter. Wrap the turkey init. Then place it in the over and cover it with foil. Remove the foil about 30 minutes prior to removing the turkey. 

Problem 6: The turkey is under cooked! 

To avoid this, try to calculate the cooking time as best as possible from the chart on the birds wrapper. You can check the internal temperature which should be tested at the thigh and read 180 degrees F. If you have stuffed the bird, make sure to check the internal cavity temperature. This should read 180 degrees F. If its too late and the turkey is being carved. Cutoff what you are planning on serving and place it back into the oven to finish cooking. Keep a close eye on it as the slices can dry out easily. 

Problem 7: Not enough gravy! 

This is a tragedy in our house. I actually don’t eat gravy.  One Easter I made the mistake of not serving it. I won’t do that again. I make gravy from scratch but if there isn’t enough I keep pre-made gravy on hand. If you don’t have pre-made gravy from the store there are gravy packets that you just add water to that are pretty good. Tip for this, don’t use the water – use chicken broth. Makes a world of difference. You can also whip up a quickie batch of gravy. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine a half cup flour, 3  cups chicken broth, 1 cup of wine (preferably white), and a ½ stick of butter.Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Problem 8: The mashed potatoes turned out like glue! 

Never good. To prevent this: Don’t use a food processor,electric mixer, blender or anything electric to blend the potatoes. This is over kill. Potatoes are to be mashed by hand. Potatoes turn to starch so easily especially after being boiled. Also –Don’t use red potatoes. They don’t have the best texture for mashing. If the deed is already done: create a casserole! Spread the potatoes into a casserole dish and top with a few thin slices of butter cheese bacon bits, chives bread crumbs and then bake at 350 degrees F till the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Surprise side dish. This still tastes good with gravy. If you don’t want to add the chives and bacon bits just skip them. Add what you like.

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