A Time for Cooking Disasters
Thanksgiving is a time for families to get together and enjoy a huge feast. It is also a time when we are all expected to pitch in on preparing the food, whether or not we actually have any cooking skills. Some of us get lucky and can pull off a delicious plate of whatever. The rest of us experience some of the most epic fails of the year, all in the name of tradition.
That Darn Bird
Most Thanksgiving disasters start with the Turkey. It might not thaw fast enough. It can get dropped on the floor. It might bake unevenly and be served partially raw. The bird can even explode if not cooked properly. The turkey is the source of nearly every Thanksgiving disaster we read about.
Thawing in the Garage
Do you have a rodent problem? Here is a great way to find out. Let your turkey thaw in the garage like the thousands of other people who think that this is the safest place to keep a turkey. If you are lucky, nothing will touch your meat. Otherwise, expect the mice or a neighborhood raccoon to make a meal of your bird before you get to it.
Forgetting to Remove the Giblets
Inside nearly every whole turkey that you buy in the grocery store is a bag of giblets. These are usually frozen inside the turkey and nearly impossible to remove until the turkey is thawed. By that time, you probably have a million other things on your mind so you quickly stuff the bird and throw it in the oven only to find out later on that you have totally ruined your turkey.
Dish Detergent Washing
Meat is dirty, right? For some people it makes sense to wash the turkey off with dish detergent. According to the USDA, this is a huge mistake. It is impossible to wash all the bacteria off the meat and by washing the turkey, you are splashing some of that bacteria around your kitchen. You risk giving your guests a foodborne illness and messy runs to the bathroom.
Slip and Slide
Even though the USDA tells you not to wash your bird off, you are going to do it anyway. You cut open the plastic and take out the cold bird corpse. You turn on the hot water in the sink and prepare to rinse the bird off, but as you flip it over, it flies out of your hands, across the counter and straight down onto the floor. You pick it up and rinse it off. No one will know.
Too Big for the Oven
If your eyes are bigger than your stomach, you will have leftovers. If your turkey is too big for your oven, you will have disasters. Imagine going through all the trouble to thaw and dress a turkey and at the last moment discover that the bird doesn’t fit the oven. Your only option now is to cut up the bird, but you have no experience dismembering turkeys and you cut off a finger instead. Happy Thanksgiving!
Roasting Pan Not Big Enough
Just as bad as not having an oven that is big enough for the turkey, how about when your roasting pan is too small for the darn bird? It happens all the time. The turkey buyer doesn’t even think about what size roasting pan she has when picking out her frozen bird. She gets home, plops it in the freezer until the day before Thanksgiving. Then she thaws it and oops! The bird is too big. Time to phone the relatives and see who has a large enough roasting pan.
If the turkey is forced into a roasting pan that is way too small for it, fat will drip over the sides of the pan and start to smoke on the bottom of the oven. If that’s not bad enough, it can catch on fire. Talk about some family excitement!
The Exploding Turkey
Deep frying turkeys on Thanksgiving continues to be a fad. Those who do it swear that the turkey flavor is unbeatable even though the dangers of deep frying a turkey are very real. Putting a frozen or a partially frozen turkey into a vat of hot oil will cause the turkey to literally explode. People get hurt and houses burn down, adding to the stressful excitement of the holiday.
There have been incidents where people have used a regular glass people thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey. The only problem is that people thermometers are only made to go up to about 110 degrees F. The thermometer is inserted and the glass breaks, leaving glass shards and mercury all over the turkey. A word of advice: only use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey.
Still Pink Inside
The turkey looked absolutely stunning when you pulled it out of the oven. It was a golden brown and there was no doubt in your mind that it was cooked all the way through. You skip checking the temperature and serve it up. A few slices in and you discover that the meat is still pink. Sorry folks. The turkey needs to go back in the oven for another hour or so. Cover up the other dishes and wait it out.
Way Too Dry
Have you ever gone to a Thanksgiving dinner, taken a bite of the turkey, and felt as though your mouth was pasted together? The turkey was so dry that you could not swallow it unless you drank a glass of water with each bite. Even worse, you have to smile along with everyone else and say that the turkey is delicious. Pass the gravy, please!
Dog Eats Turkey
It’s not a cooking fail, but i does happen. Someone removes the turkey from the oven and plates it. Uncle John called everyone to the living room to look at the neighbors across the street. The turkey is left alone and the dog see his perfect opportunity. Someone walks back into the kitchen and calls out, “Where’s the turkey?” Panic sets in and everyone goes search for the dog. Just follow the trail of grease and meat crumbs.
That Vegetarian Relative
It is all about that meat on Thanksgiving. After all, we do call it turkey day and not tofu day. But in every family there is that one person who is a vegetarian. Everybody forgets about it until they are all seated at the table. The vegetarian asks what dish is meat free. The veggies? Yeah, they were cooked in turkey broth. Sorry!
Topped With Love
There is not much to making gravy. It is probably one of the easiest things made during the holidays, but as Fate would have it, it is often the easiest thing to screw up or neglect. You might have gone to Thanksgiving dinners where there was no gravy and suffered through the dry turkey. You might have even been to a dinner where chicken or beef gravy was served with the turkey. Whatever the case, perfect gravy is essential to a perfect Thanksgiving.
Is This Gravy Or Soup?
The only rescue for super dry turkey meat is the gravy. You look around the table in search of a rich liquid, but all you see is something that looks like soup broth. Is that some sort of custom here? You play it safe and ask the table to hand you the gravy. Sure enough, someone hands you the flimsy looking broth. You smile and pour the oily, tasteless substance on your plate, hoping for the best.
Are Those Lumps Supposed to Be There?
There are those grandmothers and moms who think they can quickly mix up the gravy with a fork and call it a day. But when you go to pour the gravy out of the dish, there are huge lumps of flour in it. Honestly, it looks kind of gross. So you head back into the kitchen with the gravy and pour it into the blender. A quick buzz and the problem is solved.
Burning the Gravy Dry
You are rushing here, rushing there, and you aren’t paying attention to the gravy heating up in the pan until you smell something funny. You rush over to the pan with smoke billowing out of it, only to see that you have managed to cook all the liquid out of the pan. The only thing you can do is hope someone you know has an extra can of gravy hidden in the back of a cabinet.
Hair in the Food
It is hard to even think about this epic fail without the gag reflexes kicking off. There are innumerable instances where the cook accidentally cooks their hair into the food, but it is nearly unforgivable for it to happen when cooking your Thanksgiving meal. Hair found cooked into the turkey gives it a hair-burnt flavor. Hair in the mashed potatoes is the worst. Sometimes there is hair in your favorite dessert, turning your stomach against that particular treat for the rest of your life.
Don’t Forget the Potatoes
What is a Thanksgiving meal without the potatoes? After all, there are so many things you can make with potatoes, that they are an absolute necessity when you are looking to make a filling dish for a large group of people. That’s why it is incredibly important to make sure you have enough spuds on hand and you need to make sure they haven’t rotted since the time you last bought them.
With all that is going on Thanksgiving Day, it is only too easy to burn the potatoes. To top it off, you decide to go ahead and use the potatoes for mashing. You scrape the mess into a bowl, pour in the milk, add the butter, and start the mixer. You serve the mashed potatoes and, after tasting a spoonful, you find that they taste burnt. Surprised? You could have avoided this by turning over the pot of boiled potatoes and only using the potatoes that came willing out of the pan. Never use the scrapings from the pan, because they will ruin the flavor of your mashed potatoes.
Mashed Potato Paste
Mashed potatoes are a comfort food that most people look forward to every Thanksgiving, so when you mess it up you are going to have a crowd of angry relatives grumbling at the table. Mashed potatoes that are too thick or feel like sticky glue are hardly edible. Resist the urge to fling a spoonful at your sister and just smother them in butter and gravy.
The only thing worse than serving up mashed potato paste is serving up undercooked and lumpy mashed potatoes. The instant you take a bite, your teeth sink into a crunch that is totally unbecoming of mashed potatoes. Instead of suffering through the misery, put the mashed potatoes back in a pan, add a splash of milk or cream, and cook the mess over low heat until the lumps are soft. Give them a quick mash and serve them right the second time.
Cat’s in the Butter
Thanksgiving rule number one: put the cat in another room until after everyone eats. If not, your cat will be after the butter, the turkey, and anything else it can find on the kitchen counter. The last thing you want to do is serve up cat hair butter or risk the cat knocking the delicious turkey onto the floor.
Got the Milk?
It is Thanksgiving morning. You wake up early and head down to the kitchen to bake. You get all your ingredients together and reach into the refrigerator for the final, essential one: milk. Two things can happen here. Either the milk is all gone or you discover that it is expired. Either way, you are going to have to do a mad search around town to find fresh milk.
Bread Fails to Rise
There is nothing as beautiful as a fresh loaf of bread on the Thanksgiving table. It’s wholesome, warm, and your loaf of bread just happened to totally flop. Whether your yeast is expired or you used chlorinated water, your bread failed to rise properly and the result was a sad brick of a loaf. There is no rescue for the loaf and you will have to use store bought bread instead.
How the Bread Crumbles
It looks like a beautiful loaf of bread until you begin to slice it. The bread just crumbles and you can’t get a good, even slice out of the bread. After all that work and now you want to make a dash to the bathroom and have a good cry. There is nothing you can do to fix the bread, although some people will still eat it. After all, homemade bread is homemade bread.
Overly Dry Corn Muffins
Many people bake corn muffins for Thanksgiving dinner. They are normally very easy to make and don’t take up a lot of time. They can also come out super dry. If you baked a batch of dry corn muffins, your only hope is that people are smart enough to drown them in butter or gravy. Failing that, they can use them as hockey pucks after the family meal.
Serving up a bowl of dry, hard stuffing is just as bad as serving up a dry turkey. The dry parts will glue a mouth shut in seconds and the hard bread bits can crack a tooth. The only remedy for overly dry stuffing is to put it back in the oven dish and pour turkey broth and melted butter over it. Cover and bake for a few minutes, until steamy. Serve immediately.
The opposite of dry stuffing is mushy stuffing. For some of us, mushy stuffing is better than no stuffing, but if your stuffing is similar to a soupy chowder, that is a near total disaster. The only thing you can possibly do to save the day is spread out the mush on a baking sheet and bake off the excess liquid in the oven.
Thank Goodness for Pies
Pies and Thanksgiving go hand in hand. If you want to play it safe, order some delicious pies from the bakery to serve on turkey day. If you are daring and brave, you can try and bake a bunch of your own pies for the big feast, but be warned. If anything can go wrong, it will, especially when it comes to trying untested pie recipes.
Burnt Pie Crust
Even the queen of baking pies can face this dessert disaster from time to time. When the top crust burns on the pie, there are only two things you can do to fix the situation. If the burning is on the edges, you can try and remove the burnt area and cover with up with a whipped cream edging. If the entire top is burnt, just take it all off. Make a crumb topping instead, put the pie back in the over, and bake it until the top is golden.
Cracked Pumpkin Pie
You baked a pumpkin pie for the Thanksgiving dessert and it looks absolutely beautiful to you. The crust turned out perfect and the coloring is dark and rich. It even has a character building crack running through it which, in your mind, proves that it is homemade. But your Aunt Matilda can’t keep her mouth shut and points out why you have a crack in the pie. Next time, cover the pie with whipped cream or dust it with powdered sugar and keep Aunt Matilda away from the dessert table.
Salt Instead of Sugar
In the rush to get dessert done, quite a few people have reached for the salt instead of the sugar. This happened at one particle thanksgiving dinner where a young woman, baking cookies for the first time, made a batch of hard salt cookies. She was embarrassed, but everyone was able to laugh it off. After all, there were plenty of other desserts on the table.
You thought pudding would be a quick and easy dessert to make for turkey day, but you couldn’t have been more wrong. If you don’t follow the instructions to a T, you are likely to get separated pudding. The good news is that you can mix it back up or pour off the excess water. If a relative complains, tell him to “Suck it up, Buttercup.”
Thanksgiving is not the day you want to try a new recipe you got off the internet. Even if the recipe got a ton of positive reviews, something can always go wrong and ruin your whole day. For instance, the recipe writer could have accidentally typed in the wrong measurements for an ingredient and you wind up with something too salty, too sweet, or too disgusting for words. Test out recipes days in advance before making them for the big day.
Not Enough Food
You just cooked what looks like enough food for an entire army, but your relatives have a few surprises for you. Your brother brings along a new girlfriend and her two children. Your sister’s daughter brings along her best friend. And then relatives you never knew existed start showing up. You quickly realize that your feast is nothing more than a light snack for all the people crammed into your house.
Okay, who was in charge of making sure no one made the same dish for turkey day? Was that you? Honestly, it can’t be helped, especially if you have a large group of people getting together. Someone is bound to make an extra dish and suddenly there will be doubles of a thing or two.
Ultimately, the true meaning of Thanksgiving is one of survival. Our ancestors survived their first Thanksgiving through harsh weather and a hostile environment. Today we survive our family and cooking disasters. In spite of it all, we would not have it any other way. Thanksgiving will be around for generations to come, come hell or high water.