Thanksgiving Disaster-Savers Article -
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Thanksgiving Disaster-Savers

When cooking disasters strike, these tips will help you salvage your Thanksgiving meal.

Turkey Tips

Problem: Turkey still frozen on Thanksgiving morning?

  • What went wrong:
    You may have underestimated how long it would take to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator--about 5 hours for each pound. Or you may have waited until the last minute to do your shopping. (That should probably stay between you and the bird.)
  • What to do:

    You can speed up the thawing process by placing the wrapped, frozen turkey in your kitchen sink and covering it with cold running water. Use your bathtub if your sink isn't large enough. Drain and refill the water every half hour. The turkey will thaw at the rate of about a half hour for each pound.

Find out more in Buying and Thawing a Turkey.

VIDEO:  How to Thaw a Turkey

Problem: The turkey begins to burn while it's roasting.

  • What went wrong:

    It could be that your oven needs to be calibrated and that you've been roasting it at a much higher temperature than you thought. (Note to self: purchase an oven thermometer.) Or you may be relying on one of those "pop-ups" to tell you when the turkey is done, which aren't as reliable as a meat thermometer inserted into the turkey.

  • What to do:

    Flip the bird over immediately and continue to cook. When you carve the turkey, begin by removing any blackened skin and about half an inch of the meat below any burnt area. You can then layer slices of the meat on individual dinner plates (outside the view of your guests), ladle gravy spiced with a little cayenne pepper on top and call it your special "Cajun Smoked Turkey."

Problem: The turkey meat is dry.

  • What went wrong:

    The turkey breast meat often dries out before the drumsticks are cooked. Trussing may also have been the culprit: trussing is really only required to help keep stuffing in the bird. Trussing an unstuffed bird will lead to less air circulation in the cavity, the dark meat will take longer to cook and the breast meat has a better chance of drying out.

  • What to do:

    Cover your turkey slices with extra gravy. Leftover dry meat is perfect for BBQ, stews or turkey salads.

    VIDEO: How to Fix Dry Turkey Meat

Good Gravy

Problem: Your gravy turns out lumpy.

  • What went wrong:

    The flour may not have been fully dissolved in liquid before you added it to the pan drippings or the gravy may have cooked at too high of a temperature.

  • What to do:

    Pour the gravy through a mesh strainer into a new pan and heat gently, stirring constantly; serve immediately.

    VIDEO: How to Fix Lumpy Gravy

Problem: Your gravy burns.

  • What went wrong:

    The simple answer... It burned! Most mistakes happen right before dinner is served when the cook is distracted trying to pull everything together.

  • What to do:

    Quickly transfer the gravy to another pan without touching or scraping the blackened bottom. Most of the burnt flavor should stay with the pan. Worst-case scenario? Keep packaged gravy on hand as a back-up.

Potatoes to Brag About

Problem: Your mashed potatoes turn out sticky and glue-like.

  • What went wrong:

    The potatoes were either overcooked or got overworked, possibly because you used an electric hand mixer.

  • What to do:

    Adding more milk or butter may not thin out sticky potatoes. Try forming into patties, chilling for about an hour and then frying until golden brown. You can also spoon the potatoes into a casserole dish, top with butter and cheddar cheese, bake and serve as a mashed potatoes casserole.

    VIDEO: How to Fix Gluey Mashed Potatoes

Roll Call

Problem: You burned your dinner rolls.

  • What to do:

    Slice off the burned tops and add a dab of butter on each roll. If the bottoms burned, simply remove the burnt part, flip them over, top with butter and serve.

Build a Better Pie

Problem: Your pie crust turns out soggy.

  • What went wrong:

    The crust wasn't pre-baked and the filling turned the crust mushy. For fruit pies, try pre-cooking half the filling to activate the thickeners and cook off some of the liquid. Remove from heat and stir in remaining fruit for a chunky texture.

  • What to do:

    Scoop servings of the pie into individual dessert bowls and top with whipped cream.

    VIDEO: How to Fix a Soggy Pie Bottom

Problem: Your pie dough falls apart.

  • What went wrong:

    There's not enough water in your dough.

  • What to do:

    Incorporate enough water to get the dough wet, sprinkle with some flour and let stand for about 15 minutes. The dough should then roll out fine.

For tips on making better pie dough, watch How to Make Pie Crust.

Problem: Your cheesecake cracks.

  • What went wrong:

    Either too much air got incorporated into the batter or the cheesecake was baked at too high of a temperature, causing the top to set before all of the steam had escaped.

  • What to do:

    Simply cover the cheesecake with cranberry sauce or other fruit or chocolate sauce.

You'll do better next time. Watch Making Cheesecake to see how it's done.

Problem: You burned your pumpkin pie.

  • What to do:

    Short of traveling back in time, there's not much you can do to save a burnt pie. If you're prone to burning pies, our recommendation is to keep a couple frozen pies on hand just in case.

    VIDEO: How to Fix Burnt Pie Crust

Nov. 9, 2009 11:50 am
"Short of traveling back in time, there's not much you can do to save a burnt pie." That is one of the funniest pieces of advice I've heard.
Nov. 17, 2009 12:36 am
this is fantastic! Loved it and it explained everything in such a comical manner it was great
Nov. 20, 2009 6:41 pm
Why can't you scrape off the burnt edge and squirt whipped cream over it, (like the burnt rolls with butter)? Or, cut the unburnt part into cute little triangle and top with dollops of whipped cream...half the people don't eat the edge crust anyway.
Nov. 21, 2009 3:47 pm
I forgot the gizzards in side my turkey, my first Thanksgiving dinner with the inlaws..... I just removed them and went on like nothing happened... Only the ladies in the kitchen knows!! My rolls get burnt once in a while, most of the time not bad. I use a peeler to scrape the burnt off the bottom and they are good...
Nov. 18, 2010 1:31 pm
I got over it and started purchasing good bakery rolls to serve and buying pies at the local restaurant!! I don't stress about either issue anymore!! And they taste better too! Aunt Tilly
Nov. 22, 2010 1:03 pm
The first time I cooked a turkey for all of my in-laws (there are six children in my husband's family plus their families; there were 17 of us), I put a 25 pound bird in a 350 degree oven. As soon as I closed the oven door, I heard a click and the oven went into self clean mode. I couldn't turn it off, or open the oven door or unplug the stove because it was too hot to move it (didn't think of the electrical panel). I had to wait 1 hour and 33 minutes before the stove cooled down enough and I could finally open the oven door. Although the aluminum foil on top completely shriveled, the ends of the drumsticks disintegrated and the two aluminum pans I had the turkey in split in half, my neighbor and I managed to lift the bird out of the oven and onto another roasting pan so that we didn't lose all of the drippings and juice for the gravy. Once I finished slip sliding all over the kitchen I finally managed to clean up all of the greasy drippings from the entire floor and from my body.
Nov. 23, 2010 4:22 am
Oh my goodness! What a great story BevJG! Glad you survived it! The first time my mom cooked for my dad, after they got married, she cooked a chicken. She had a brand new oven, (in 1962), and had never cooked anything in any kind of oven before! (She was 17 and grew up in a home for orphans) She turned on the oven and prepared the chicken as her Mother-in-Law told her to. She put the chicken in the oven and watched it, worried about it. Suddenly the little red light shut off! She panicked and fiddled with the dials and it came back on- Whew! LOL (She had no clue it was an indicator for the oven being heated) Needless to say it kept happening, and she kept fiddling with the dials. By the time the chicken was SUPPOSED to be done the tempurature in the oven was well over 500 degress, the skin was black and the meat in the center was RAW! My father, God Bless him, ate it, and raved about it, while my mother cried. He then kindly taught her how the oven worked for future reference! Now tha
Nov. 24, 2010 8:48 pm
Bless you, Bev, that is the worst/funniest Thanksgiving dinner disaster story I've ever heard! If you tell us you ever cooked another T-day dinner, you win the prize for Extreme Culinary Courage. And Deetsy, what a sweet story!
Nov. 30, 2010 1:55 pm
These are some of the best of the worst stories ever. Thank you for sharing - now I don't feel so bad. This is also fantastic advice. Thanks!
Dec. 6, 2010 6:17 am
Bev....I'm still laughing out loud. Thanks for sharing! What a trouper!
Aug. 14, 2011 10:43 pm
Thank you for sharing your I don't feel so bad. My first Thanksgiving after we were married, my husband invited his family to join us. I had never cooked the whole meal by myself and was very nervous. I seasoned the bird and put it in the oven per the recipe I found. Later, when his mother arrived to "help" (she didn't like me at the time nor did she trust my cooking abilities), she asked for the giblets to make the gravy. I had a deer in the headlights look on my face, thinking I forgot to buy something...turns out they were still wrapped in the brown paper inside the turkey in the oven! We all laughed so this day everyone still 'reminds' me to remove the giblets when its my turn to cook the meal!
Nov. 1, 2011 11:25 am
Everyone in my family has at some point left the little package of giblets or gravy in the turkey. oh, or the neck. We all claim our turkey didn't come with it! Low and behold out it comes when carving. We all get a great laugh when this has happened. My Mother says one year it was the neck. They put the bird on a spit and BBQ'd it. Everything was going fine until and while rotating the neck would poke thru the cavity and then go back in. Round and round, neck going in and out! You get the picture? Hilarious!
Nov. 21, 2011 10:47 am
AAaah, I love the stories! This is my first year running all of Thanksgiving for our family and inlaws, and I'm a little nervous. You guys make me feel so much better! I can do it - I can do it - I can do it. :-) (Thanks)
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