Thanksgiving Turkey Mistakes – Don’t Panic

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Thanksgiving Turkey Mistakes

If you are up to your eyeballs in stuffing and cranberries and you’re not quite sure what to do to pull off one of the most celebrated meals of the year, don’t panic. We’ve got help for you.

The biggest flavor mistake you can make is overcooking the bird. If it’s done right, which is to 165 degrees F (considered safe by the USDA), then it should stay juicy and moist. Keep in mind if you want your meat to end up at 165, then you’ll need to pull the bird out of the oven when it hits between 155 and 160. The temperature will continue to rise 5 to 10 degrees as the bird rests. The problem is that the breast tends to cook faster than the thighs and legs, and also will naturally dry out more because it’s leaner. In order to protect the breast, cover it with foil. EatingWell.com suggests that after roasting for 45 minutes, you cover the breast with a double layer of foil, cutting the foil as necessary to conform to the breast.


Turkey too big for your oven? Cut it up but be prepared that it will cook a lot faster this way.

If your turkey is a little burned, you can try to peel off the burnt skin. Pouring turkey broth or chicken broth over it may also help to rehydrate the bird. Unfortunately if it is really overcooked, there isn’t a lot you can do.

Another mistake is opening the oven door too much when cooking the bird. If you need to baste, make sure you take the pan out of the oven and close the door quickly to keep the heat in the oven. Baste it and get that bird back in the oven. Opening and closing the door too much will significantly reduce the temperature and make it take a lot longer.

Make sure you let the bird sit for about half an hour before carving. This will allow the juices to lock in and you won’t lose them all when you cut into the turkey.

Make sure you remove the wishbone before carving. You can’t carve the white meat correctly if you don’t!

Turkey cooked way earlier than your dinner time? It’s okay. Put foil over that bird and it will stay hot and juicy for at least an hour until you’re ready to carve. Best option is to keep it somewhere warm and insulated and away from pets! (Oh yes I’ve had my cat and dog both attack a turkey before.)

But what if you go to start stuffing that bird and you discover it’s still frozen? Turkeys can also be thawed in the microwave. Here is a checklist from the USDA’s website on safely thawing your turkey in the microwave:

  • Check your owner’s manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound and power level to use for thawing.
  • Remove all outside wrapping.
  • Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak.
  • Cook your turkey immediately. Do not refreeze or refrigerate your turkey after thawing in the microwave oven.

REMINDER: Remove the giblets from the turkey cavities after thawing. Cook separately.

I have never tried this myself and I think most chefs agree that thawing a turkey in the fridge ahead of time or in a sink of cold water is your best bet.

Now what about the lumpy or runny mashed potatoes? If your potatoes turn out a little gluey, try adding some instant potatoes to the pan to fluff it up. Or add a few more potatoes, mashed of course.

If they came out a little lumpy (hope my mother in law is reading this) add some milk or butter and stir it in with a fork, don’t go crazy with the mashing.

And last but not least, if you realize you’re missing an ingredient you need for one of your crowd pleasing dishes check out the Food Substitutions post!

I certainly hope you won’t run into any Thanksgiving emergencies today! But if you do, please make sure to comment below or share your tips for averting disaster in the kitchen today! Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo credit to Peripathetic on Flickr