Are you hosting a Thanksgiving feast? Avoid the headaches and the stress by using this helpful Thanksgiving emergency playbook.
Whether you’re trying out some new Thanksgiving trends or sticking to your tried-and-true traditional dishes this year, preparing Thanksgiving dinner is a daunting task that never goes smoothly. For most people, Thanksgiving dinner is the largest, most complex meal they’ll ever prepare, and just the logistics of how to plan Thanksgiving dinner can be overwhelming for most cooks.
While preparing the Thanksgiving meal can be stressful and exhausting, it’s less so if you keep the occasion manageable. Part of that is being prepared for the inevitable hiccups. Fortunately, the most important thing is spending quality time with family and friends. Years from now, your kitchen mishaps will be nothing but a funny story – if they’re remembered at all. Smooth things over with these holiday emergency tips.
1. The Bird Won’t Thaw
Thawing a turkey takes a long time – at least 24 hours in the refrigerator for every four pounds of bird. Whether you forgot to take the bird out of the freezer in time, or simply find yourself with a still-mostly-frozen bird that simply isn’t thawing as fast as you need it to, don’t panic. Stick the bird in a sink full of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes until the bird is thawed. The bird will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw this way.
2. The Bird Is Undercooked
Grill it, roast it, deep-fry it, smoke it or brine it, cooking a turkey is at the center of Thanksgiving meal prep. Most cooks dread cutting into a Thanksgiving turkey to find it still raw inside – what a nightmare! You can salvage the situation by carving off and serving the parts that are cooked, and sticking the rest back in the oven while everyone eats.
3. The Bird Is Overcooked
Hey, at least it’s done! Unless you’re facing a National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation kind of situation, you can salvage the overdone turkey by smothering it in gravy.
4. The Breast Is Cooking Faster than the Thighs – a LOT Faster
Uh oh! Cover the breast with foil to keep it from overcooking. If necessary, you can carve off the breast and stick the rest of the bird back in the oven.
5. There Isn’t Enough Time to Cook the Bird
Cooking a turkey in the oven takes several hours – but you’ve run short of time. If you still have a few hours left, you can speed up cooking time by butterflying the bird. A small turkey will cook in as little as one and a half hours at 400 degrees if butterflied.
6. There Isn’t Enough Seating
Thanksgiving dinner may stretch the limits of your home’s capacity to accommodate guests, especially if you have a large family. It’s time to get creative – once all the seats at the dining room table and folding card tables are taken, start putting people around the coffee table, or seat them on a blanket on the floor, picnic-style. Give them some pillows so they can lounge decadently as they feast, like ancient Romans.
7. There Isn’t Enough Food
A key part of your Thanksgiving shopping strategy should be making sure you have enough food. In the event you have more guests than expected, whip up some extra mashed potatoes, soup, stuffing, rice or pasta.
8. You Have Bottles of Wine or Beer, and No Bottle Opener
It’s the one day of the year when you most need a drink, so of course you can’t get it out of the bottle. Fortunately, you can use the edge of a counter, a lighter or a belt buckle to open a bottle of beer. Most can openers will also open bottles. Need to open wine without a corkscrew? If you plan to finish the bottle, push the cork in. You can also use a screw, a shoe or a key to get the cork out.
9. Your Garbage Disposal Is Clogged
Oh no! How will you deal with cleanup now? You can probably fix a clogged disposal yourself by sticking a hex key in the six-sided hole on the bottom of the motor, and wiggling it to free to blockage.
10) You’ve Run Out of a Key Ingredient – Or Forgotten It Altogether
Recipe substitutions are your friend. There are truly very few instances when you can’t substitute something else for whatever it is you’re missing. Google “substitute for” and whatever it is you’re short of.
11. You’re Running Out of Sides
Need more sides? Whip up an easy stuffing with bread, broth, and poultry seasoning.
12. There Isn’t Enough Room in the Oven
Of course there isn’t. Grill (or deep-fry) the bird outside to make space.
13. Your Gravy Is Too Thick, Too Thin or Too Lumpy
You can thin thick gravy with hot water or broth, and thicken thin gravy by boiling some of the liquid off. Got lumps? Strain the gravy through a sieve for a smoother sauce.
In an operation as complex as making a large holiday meal, something’s bound to go wrong – probably more than one thing. But those things don’t have to ruin everyone’s good time. Be ready to roll with the punches, and you’ll find that making Thanksgiving dinner is much more enjoyable than it is harrowing.