6 Common Thanksgiving Fails & How to Avoid Them November 18, 2016
Every now and then, you just gotta laugh—especially when it comes to these epic Thanksgiving fails. But with a little help from our chefs and dietitian, you can avoid repeating past mistakes and pull off a stress-free feast to be thankful for.
You know what we don’t talk about enough? Cooking fails. Because whether you’re a newbie in the kitchen or a self-proclaimed master with the mandoline, nobody’s perfect. And with Thanksgiving less than a week away, there’s no better time to learn from our our extra crispy (read: charred) turkeys, salted pies (oops), red wine spills, and soggy stuffing. We turned to Facebook to ask the fresh fam about their less than Instagram worthy Thanksgiving memories. Now, we’re handing it over to the experts. Our dream team of chefs (Nate and Freida) along with our dietitian (Rebecca) are here with advice, tips, and tricks to help you avoid the worst turkey day pitfalls.
1. The fried turkey fiasco
- Cooking. Deep. Fried. Turkeys. Had. Oil. Boil. Over. Scented. Driveway. For. Months. – J.T.
“I wouldn’t advise deep frying a turkey unless you are experienced with deep frying and have the appropriate equipment,” explains Nate. “But if you do, make sure the turkey is completely defrosted (frozen = water = crystals = exploding). Remember to test how much oil you will need before you heat it up!”
When we asked Freida, all she could say was “NEVER DEEP FRY TURKEY. Not worth it.”
Note the caps lock, here. Freida’s not messing around.
2. Burn baby burn
- I had my best friend and her hubby over for Thanksgiving dinner one year. We were having such a nice time chatting, eating the yummy appetizers…I opened the oven to turn the scrumptious looking turkey around so I could baste it everywhere evenly. The flimsy aluminum foil pan collapsed on one side, spilling turkey juice everywhere inside the oven! I quickly wiped up the spilled liquid with paper towels and popped it back into the oven. As we were sitting there at the kitchen table, huge grey billows of smoke began pouring from the oven, filling the house with lung choking smoke! The oven was on fire! And because the oven was on fire, the appliance put itself in “lock-down” mode! I couldn’t open the door to put out the fire! We immediately opened up all the doors and windows, our eyes stinging from the billowing smoke! With tears running down our faces, we calmly waited for the fire to burn itself out…the turkey was delicious and we went on to have a wonderful dinner together (despite being embarrassed to my very core!). Thank goodness for good friends! – B.C.
“Invest in a good roasting pan,” advises Freida. “You’ll use it more often than you think to roast chicken, lamb, etc. And don’t forget about thick oven mitts!”
And when it comes to basting, Nate admits that there’s no hard and fast rule.
“Some people like the suction basters, others prefer a spoon. Some remove the turkey completely from the oven, and others baste while partially pulling the turkey out of the oven. The important thing is to do whatever you feel comfortable with.”
- When I put the turkey in the oven, I thought,”Most of the meat is on top, so that’s where the heat should come from.” Yep, I BROILED the turkey! Couldn’t believe anything could be so charred and so bloody at the same time. #thanksgivingfail – J.C.
The broiler works wonders for a crisp finish on everything from roasted veggies to potatoes. But when it comes to turkey, stay away. Far, far away.
“[Broiling a turkey] is generally not something I’d advise,” warns Nate, because they’re “too big and spherical. [But] some people roast the turkey covering the breast in foil to preserve moisture and then remove the foil for the last hour or so to crisp the skin.”
Speaking of oven struggles…
- My mom accidentally hit the self clean feature when the turkey was in the oven. It auto locked so you couldn’t open it. We had to call the emergency number for the company, and someone actually answered on Thanksgiving and they were able to give us an emergency way to reset and unlock it. Phew! – J.K
And although this one isn’t technically a “burn” fail, we couldn’t resist…
- When I was 9, my aunt had a picture perfect spread. She turned on the chandelier and it exploded, sending glass in all the food. – E.P.
Sorry, can’t help you out here.
3. Super stuffed turkey
- The first time my husband and I cooked a turkey, we jammed it so full of stuffing it exploded in the oven. – K.J
The key to the perfect stuffing is actually not to stuff the turkey, explains Nate. “In my experience the stuffing never needs to cook as long as the turkey, and it’s challenging to control how much of the natural juices it takes on. I’d recommend cooking your stuffing separately. But if you want that ‘cooked in the bird’ flavor, just add some of the juices from the turkey roasting pan to the stuffing. Or better yet, use some of the rendered turkey fat as a substitution for oil or butter in your stuffing recipe.”
4. Mmmmmmm salty desserts
- My mom always makes the pumpkin pie from scratch every Thanksgiving. A couple of years ago no one could eat it because it tasted funny. Long story short, we came to the conclusion that she forgot to add the sugar…. Please don’t forget the sugar. Salty pumpkin pie is horrible. – D.R.
Be sure to keep herbs, spices, and seasonings close to your work station. This way, you won’t be frantically grabbing commonly confused ingredients like salt, sugar, and baking soda. And remember, there’s no need to rush! Try your best to be present and mindful while cooking and we promise the chances of this happening will plummet.
5. So much to do, so little time!
- Let’s just say my time management wasn’t at its best. Half of the sides were done, the other half (plus the turkey) weren’t, and my guests were starving! -JP
Rebecca has two words for you: prep ahead.
“If I’ve learned anything from the number of large parties I’ve catered for professionally or hosted personally, it’s that prepping ingredients the night before makes the day of the party SO much more enjoyable. Take the time to pre-measure out spice blends, pre-chop onions and Brussels sprouts, and pre-mix the cookie or pastry dough will not only save your time, but also your sanity! There are so many details when planning out the big day, so it’s really helpful to take care of a portion of them before all the guests arrive and your attention is diverted away from the food.”
6. Mashed potato mishap
- We soaked peeled potatoes overnight and they turned a dismal gray. Yes, we ate gray mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving. – H.M.
Although you could soak potatoes in water for a couple hours to prevent browning, Freida advises against it. “When potatoes are soaking, they leach out all their starches, but without the starches your end result won’t be nearly as creamy.”
If you’re short on time and looking to prep in advance, Nate suggests cooking the mashed potatoes completely and storing them in an airtight container.
Above all, Rebecca reminds us that, come Thursday, it’s important to focus on why we’re hosting a party in the first place.
“It’s typically because you want to spend time with people you love and care about. Ensure that you’re leaving yourself enough time and space to catch up with those very people, and try not to spend all the time in the kitchen alone. Make some new memories, and above all – have fun! If you do end up burning the turkey or replacing baking soda with salt, laugh it off. Those are the same funny memories you’ll be talking about for years.”
What are your go-to Thanksgiving hacks? Let us know in the comments!