11 Thanksgiving Dinner FAILS & How to Avoid Them

Adriana Velez | Nov 20, 2013 Food & Party


Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I've dusted off my favorite Dinner Fail apron. Why the pessimism? Because something ALWAYS goes wrong. It's inevitable. I can't begin to explain how many times I've cried, or had too much to drink while cooking, or had to hide away a ruined dish ... probably because I've blocked those memories. This is part of my problem: I have trouble learning from my mistakes because I kind of want to just pretend they didn't happen.

More from CafeMom: 15 Turkey Brine Tips for a Perfectly Juicy Thanksgiving Bird

Anyhoo, I'm going to be brave and try to remember those mistakes anyway. Because let's face it, if one isn't going to start a few fires, burn a few turkeys, or make a few crazy concoctions, than how can one really learn to cook? Even professional chefs will say it: If one doesn't want to get burned, stay out of the kitchen. And I take great comfort in knowing there are entire TV series following the worst cooks in America -- I like not being alone in my terribleness. For the sake of our dear readers, I did a little research to put my, and my fellow bad cooks', best foot forward this holiday season. Here are 11 mistakes folks might make for Thanksgiving dinner -- and how we can avoid them.

And tell us, which part of the Thanksgiving meal is the trickiest to get right?

Image © iStock.com/YinYang

  • Getting Totally Overwhelmed & Emotional


    Image © iStock.com/iconogenic

    For years, I planned these elaborate feasts because I had a VISION for how this meal should be. And then I'd get overwhelmed, and I would ruin something or maybe I'd just get emotional and frustrated. By the time I sat down, I was exhausted and irritable. No more! Now I'm under-doing dinner. My mantra is to keep it super simple. I'll probably fail at that, but it's my goal, anyway. Also? Don't drink and cook. Until after disaster occurs, and then, maybe have a glass of wine.

  • Guests Bring Gross Food


    Image © iStock.com/brown54486

    Ugh, Aunt Minne brought her gross, mushy boiled Brussels sprouts again. Jen's stuffing is the sorriest looking stuff you've ever laid eyes on. Your brother brought ORANGE SODA, of all things! Come on, be gracious about it. Put the soggy stuffing on the table anyway and don't say a word aside from "thank you."

  • Overbrined Turkey


    Image © iStock.com/NWphotoguy

    This can happen! You can actually brine a turkey too long in a strong brine -- the meat will turn into mush. Always follow the directions in your recipe carefully. And remember, some turkeys are injected with a flavoring and water and should not be brined at all, so check the ingredients list for anything other than "turkey."

  • Burnt, Dried-Out Turkey


    Image © iStock.com/pancaketom

    This happens too! To prevent it, keep a thermometer in your bird, check it regularly (BEFORE it should be done) and keep basting. Too late? Carve the bird and soak pieces in warm chicken or turkey broth before serving. Ladle on the gravy generously.

  • Turkey Takes Waaaay Too Long to Cook


    Image © iStock.com/Ugurhan Betin

    One year I tried to roast an especially huge turkey, and it took FOREVER. Everyone was staring, waiting for that thing to finish already. I could have spared us all grief by starting that bird earlier than I thought I needed to. In this case, we carved the outer, fully-cooked layers of meat and put the rest of the bird back in the oven to roast more while we ate.

  • Rolls Don't Rise


    Image © iStock.com/amit erez

    Sometimes your dough just won't rise. (Psst. maybe you forgot the yeast???) Two solutions. One, gather the dough, roll it all out flat, sprinkle with quick-rise yeast, mist with water, knead together, and see if it'll rise now. No time? Flatten roll dough balls, brush with melted butter and bake them as "biscuits."

  • Mis-Timing Your Sides


    Images © iStock.com/AbbieImages

    So, your turkey is done before your sides are. Or your sides are done before your turkey. Or your sides are all done at different times. You know what? This is not a problem. Just relax. If you're super ambitious, you can attempt to time everything perfectly. But if you're not, just do what you can to keep some dishes warm-ish while you wait for the others.

  • Lumpy Gravy


    Image © iStock.com/DebbiSmirnoff

    Gravy went lumpy on you? It happens sometimes when you add your flour or cornstarch too quickly. But it's okay -- this is why the fine mesh sieve was invented. Just pour the gravy through it and dump the lumps.

  • You Dropped the Pie


    Image © iStock.com/Sezer Alcinkaya

    Maybe you stacked your pie on something else in the refrigerator and it fell and spilled all over. Or maybe you dropped it when you pulled it out of the oven. I think it's okay to cry in this instance. But then, wipe your tears. Don't try to salvage anything. Instead, pull out some ice cream, a box of cookies, or any other sweet thing you have around. And remember for next time to be extra careful with that pie.

  • You Dropped the Turkey


    Image © iStock.com/Alija

    Oops! Follow Julia Child's advice: "Always remember, if you're alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who's going to know?" The same applies to a turkey.

  • Your Guests Argue


    Image © iStock.com/Jennifer_Sharp

    Um, sorry, now we're outside my area of expertise. Good luck with that.


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