You think you’re doing everything right on Thanksgiving. The turkey is in the oven, your family has yet to arrive, and then, everything goes to hell. You don’t even know how it happened, but suddenly the house is full of people, the turkey is dry, and you’re still in your PJs with curlers in your hair. I’ve been here on a few occasions, and I always thought it was the universe conspiring against me. Turns out it was all my fault! In an effort to save more people from this horrible situation, I’ve got 15 ways you’re sabotaging yourself at Thanksgiving — and how to fix them.
When I thought the universe was in cahoots to get me on Thanksgiving, it was really my choices that, when all combined together, assured complete and total failure. There’s nothing like serving dry turkey to your family with wet hair because you didn’t give yourself enough time to shower. Yikes, it’s not a pretty picture. I’ve never lived it down.
If you’ve ever struggled to get Thanksgiving 100 percent right, I am sure there’s something on this list that you’re doing to prevent that from happening. No need to worry, though, because this roundup of self-sabotages covers all the bases, from having a plan to knowing what size turkey to buy. You’re totally going to nail this Thanksgiving!
1. Not having a plan
Don’t have a plan? Get ready for all hell to break loose. You can ruin everything before you even start by not having a plan. Make sure you know how long each recipe actually takes, when people plan to arrive, and when you can fit in a shower/getting ready time before people are at your door.
2. Not using the stove and the oven
With all the amazing recipes out there, it’s easy to miss which ones require the stove versus the oven. Be careful not to make every recipe in the oven or on the stove on the big day. If you divide things out evenly, you’ll never run out of space.
3. Buying too much or too little turkey
Having a ridiculous amount of leftovers you’ll never finish and running out of turkey before everyone is served are the two big Thanksgiving Day no-nos. Figure about one and a half to two pounds of turkey for every person planning to attend, and you’ll end up with the perfect amount.
4. Not letting the bird rest before carving
The easiest way to dry out your bird? Not letting it rest before you carve into it. Let the bird rest at least 15 minutes before you make the first slice, or you’ll lose all those juices you worked so hard to create!
5. Trying to do it all yourself
You are NOT superwoman! Yes, you may think you can handle it all, but relinquish some of that control. Enlist help wherever you can from family and friends to handle little things like appetizers and sides. You handle the main items, but all those little things can pile up, trust me. You’ll end up stressed out and drunk by the time everyone sits down to dinner.
6. Burning the turkey skin
The turkey isn’t done, but the skin is getting too brown! Don’t take it out of the oven (and hello, risk poisoning your guests) — there’s a way to keep the skin from burning. Simply tent the bird with aluminum foil if the skin is getting too dark.
7. Overcooking or undercooking the bird
Dry turkey and raw turkey are a couple of the most unappetizing things to have in front of you at the dinner table. To avoid overcooking and undercooking, make sure you are checking the temperature and removing the bird once it reaches 155 to 160 degrees. It’ll come up to the desired 165 degrees while it rests.
8. Underestimating how much time it takes to defrost a turkey
Remember that Eat, Pray, Love scene where the turkey wasn’t defrosted? As much fun as that party looked, no one really wants to wait another day for the turkey to defrost. You need to know how long it takes to defrost completely in your fridge (one day for every four pounds) or in cold water (30 minutes for every pound).
9. You’re basting your bird
Your grandmother might think you’re insane, but seriously, stop basting the turkey! Opening the oven door lets out the heat, drying your turkey out, and the basting isn’t going to make up for the difference. Plus all those pan drippings make the skin soggy, and it’s a massive waste of time. Pour a glass of wine instead.
10. You’re using the little pop-up thermometer
Just, NO. Use a REAL thermometer that tells you the actual temperature of the meat.
11. You’re throwing away those pan drippings
You may not be basting with the pan drippings, but those drippings are how you make the best and most simple gravy ever. The drippings are the secret ingredients to all deliciously perfect gravies.
12. You think you’re a gourmet chef
We all wish we were Giada or Rachael Ray so we could bust out an epic Thanksgiving feast. Let’s be real though, is it worth messing up the fancy schmancy turkey recipe you’re trying for the first time and ruining Thanksgiving just to impress people? Nope. Make something that you feel confident making! You’ll freak yourself out if you don’t (and again, risk end up being drunk by dinnertime).
13. You’re putting stuffing inside the bird
Again, this is an old tradition that you need to just say no to. Your grandmother used to do it, but did that stuffing inside the bird ever actually taste good? Most likely it was too bland, and resulted in an overcooked bird. Cook the stuffing separately so you get the crunchy edges, and people actually enjoy it.
14. You don’t have some chicken stock on the stove at all times
This is the ultimate savior on Thanksgiving. Chicken stock can fix too-thick gravy, dry stuffing, dry turkey, and more. Have some nearby and if you don’t use it on turkey day, you have an easy base for leftover turkey noodle soup already in the works!
15. You don’t know how to carve a turkey
Take the five minutes to pull up a YouTube video, and watch someone who knows what they’re doing carve a turkey. Absorb that info, and repeat on the big day. No one likes turkey that looks like it’s already been chewed up and spit out…
Now that the stress of Thanksgiving disaster has left your body, it’s time to pop the champagne, and get this turkey feast started!
For more Thanksgiving ideas, check out Bustle on YouTube.
Images: Gabriel Garcia Marengo, Matt MacGillivray, Robert Couse-Baker, Kristie Moser, Neeta Lind, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ethan Lofton, U.S. Department of Agriculture, insatiablemunch, angela n., Jason Sandeman, Didriks/Flickr; Giphy;