5 Thanksgiving Disasters and How to Fix Them

November 20, 2012

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today, we're walking you through solutions to the most common Thanksgiving-day kitchen disasters.

burnt stuffing

Even the most seasoned of home cooks is susceptible to a kitchen disaster, especially on such a high-stress occasion as Thanksgiving. Despite your best efforts, the mashed potatoes turn out gluey. Cook a new-to-you turkey recipe, and it comes out dry. These things happen, and the most graceful of cooks knows to take them in stride.

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To arm you with as many tricks as you can fit up your festively colored sleeve, we've outlined some of the most common Thanksgiving fails -- and how to fix them.

dry turkey

1. Your Turkey is Dry.
This is nothing a little (or a lot of) gravy can't fix. Pour it on generously, and make sure your mashed potatoes have healthy doses of cream and butter in them.

2. Those mashed potatoes came out gluey or lumpy.
Make a well in the top of gluey potatoes, put a pat of butter in it to melt, and sprinkle on a little paprika. This will hide all ills. And, as with the aforementioned turkey, don't forget the gravy. For a lumpy mash, push them through a strainer or sieve -- it's messy, but it works.

salty vegetables

3. Your beautiful cubes of roasted vegetables are over-salted.
Haven't made your stuffing yet? Assuming the vegetables aren't so salty that they're inedible, add them to your stuffing and don't add any additional salt. Conversely, you can add these to an unseasoned soup, or save them for Friday morning and make your guests an impressive frittata.

4. There's not enough gravy.
If you can, make extra drippings and/or stock the day before with whatever poultry you can get your hands on. Use this to stretch the gravy you have, or add in other flavorful additions like wine, pre-made stock, and herbs.

raw turkey

5. It's 8 AM, and you just realized that you forgot to thaw your turkey overnight.
As soon as you can, soak the bird in cold (never hot!) water, changing the water every 30 minutes. It should take about 30 minutes per pound. Then, cook it immediately. If you're left with a frighteningly short amount of time to cook it, try spatchcocking your bird -- it will cut your cooking time almost in half.

Tell us: what are your best tips for saving the day in a pinch?

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Gordon Kennedy
    Gordon Kennedy
  • John
  • Pat E. in SLO
    Pat E. in SLO
  • jolene278
  • Elycooks
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



Gordon K. November 9, 2015
If your vegetables, or anything else is over-salted, try adding a little sweetness to it. I.E. orange juice or sugar and cook it for a few minutes more.
John November 9, 2015
I wish I could send this to my Mother-In-Law but I guess you can figure out why I can't
Pat E. November 26, 2013
Bottom burner on the oven went out....didn't know it until I discovered only the top half of the bird was cooking. Served a little more wine....served the top half and all the sides and turned the rest into soup the next day. It's all good
jolene278 November 26, 2012
My best tip for saving the day in a pinch? Change your attitude: it is what it is, and your guests will understand (and if not, it's their problem, not yours). Enjoy what's good and what's okay; leave the total disasters in the kitchen; laugh a lot (including at the cooking disasters); and enjoy your time with each other. That's more important than the food.
Elycooks November 22, 2012
Forgot to defrost the turkey. I was hysterical. Husband sent me out for a run. He filled the bathtub with water, massaged it till it was defrosted. The finished bird was moist (duh) and delicious.