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Fix Turkey Cooking Disasters | How to Fix Cooking Mistakes

Even Dogs dream about crispy roast turkey skin!

Even Dogs dream about crispy roast turkey skin!

As the holidays grow very near, we begin our planning and the writing of our menus for these pending events. Planning, planning and more planning, so everything is just right for the special people in our lives. Wouldn't it be great if the things we could not plan for, like those pesky Thanksgiving and Christmas Kitchen Disasters, were easily solved in one convenient spot? If we had a few solutions for these culinary traumas, we could greet the holidays free from wine and ativan with graceful confidence. Well, you have come to right place today! For your holiday pleasure, provided within this article are several seriously needed solution for your holiday kitchen disasters! Keep this article on hand so you're ready for the disaster that pops up in your kitchen this holiday season.

NOTE: I have been asked many times what the differences between dressing and stuffing are, as knowing the difference may make a difference. The turkey dressing is cooked outside of the turkey in a baking or casserole dish, while stuffing is cooked inside the turkey cavity. Notice that the stuffing is actually "stuffed" into the turkey?


Turkey Kitchen Mishaps Solved

Even with the best planning, things can and do go wrong on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but if you can manage to keep your cool (and a great sense of humor) you can find a solution to most problems. Here are a few of the more common Thanksgiving and Christmas problems, and the best solutions for them:

1). It's the Morning of the feast and the Turkey is still Frozen!!

Your turkey will thaw at about 30 minutes per pound if you follow this holiday kitchen disaster solution. The safest way to thaw a turkey is to soak it in COLD water. Do not be tempted to use warm or hot water here, these will only damage the bird and take it right into the temperature danger zone, and nobody wants that. Making certain your kitchen sink is very clean, while still in its wrapper, place your turkey in the sink and cover it with COLD water. You will be ready to pop old Tom-turkey in your oven in no time; disaster averted! You planned on thawing your turkey in this fashion from the beginning, as there was no space for the turkey in the already full refrigerator.

2). The Stuffing is NOT done but the Turkey is!

The temperature you are looking for in your stuffing is at least 165ºF, to determine the temperature of the stuffing place an instant-read thermometer in the center of the stuffing. If your stuffing measures less than 165ºF, scoop it out of the done turkey and put it into a baking dish, return just the stuffing back to the oven. Continue baking the stuffing until it reaches the proper temperature. This gives the turkey a chance to rest awhile before carving it, and everyone knows you should never carve a holiday turkey until it has rested.

If you want to avoid having to deal with un-done stuffing all together, here are a couple of suggestions: When you fill the turkey with the stuffing keep it loose so the oven heat can get in there and do its work, if it is packed in too tight the heat takes much longer to penetrate the dense stuffing mixture. Make sure to bring your stuffing to at least room temp before putting in the turkey, if it is too cold it will not cook properly. If you just don't want to risk having to contend with this kitchen disaster at all, don't stuff the stuffing, make a dressing by putting it into its own baking dish and cook it next to the turkey in the oven. The outside of the baked dressing will crisp up nicely, just the way you have always liked it.

Mashed potato formula, to avoid!

Mashed potato formula, to avoid!

3). Oh, No! These mashed potatoes look like glue!!

When your mashed potatoes look like they should be part of a kindergarten art project, don't worry, this is a very common problem that most cooks have had to handle. The trouble is caused by roughing-up and over-mixing the spuds. For the smoothest mashed potatoes, always use a ricer, a hand masher, or a food mill. You should avoid using a hand mixer or (gulp!) a food processor at all cost. But, if it happens, don't let glue-like potatoes ruin your thanksgiving or Christmas holiday meal. If time (and budget) permit, your results would be better if you just started over. If making a whole new batch is out of the question, then try this kitchen disaster solution; Using a shallow baking pan, spread the spuds in a fairly thin layer. Generously sprinkle course bread crumbs over the top of the potatoes. Grate Parmesan cheese over the bread crumbs (don't skimp on the cheese). Scatter dollops of butter around on the top of the crumbs and cheese, and slide them into the oven and bake until you see the topping turn golden brown and crispy. No one will care about the texture of the potatoes because they will be too impressed with your flavorful and crunchy crumb topping. No flawed potatoes here, just a fancy new recipe you're trying out this year.


An Onion can Save Your Holiday Gravy

Red and white onins can help save a gravy mishap!

Red and white onins can help save a gravy mishap!

How to make a Perfect and Easy Roux from a Pro! (1 min. 27 sec. video)

Cooking Techniques and Tips

4). All of my Turkey pan drippings are burned and I still have to make the Gravy!

Nothing makes the holiday turkey dinner better than a rich and tasty gravy made from the cooked-on and liquid turkey drippings. But if your drippings are burned, you CANNOT use them. The burnt flavor will inundate the gravy and nothing but a bitter-scorched taste will remain on your diners pallet. This adjustment for the gravy kitchen disaster may not offer the long awaited turkey drippings gravy, but it will provide you with a very tasty gravy your family and friends will enjoy.

To start with, cut or pull off 3 or 4 tablesppons' worth of the most browned tid-bits of skin and meat from under the turkey (the bottom side of the bird). Dice these turkey bits very small and add them to a clean saucepan, sauté´ the bits in bacon grease or butter. Add minced onion and parsley, thyme, and a good bit of sage, use fresh herbs if you have them on hand, if not, dried herbs are just fine. When the onion becomes browned and soft, sprinkle in some flour and cook this 'roux' until the color becomes golden brown (you must cook the flour to a brown color or your gravy will have a distinct raw-flour flavor); gradually add broth, and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened to a satisfying gravy consistency.

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The most effective way to protect your drippings from becoming burned in the first place is to cook your turkey in a heavy roasting pan that is big enough for the turkey and no larger—if you have too much extra space around your turkey the pan will become too hot and that is when bad things happen to your good drippings (and the bird). If you cannot avoid using a thin pan or have extra space around the turkey, then you must fill that space with something to absorb the heat that builds during the roasting process. The best thing to use is a couple of coarsely chopped onions positioned around the turkey in the pan, they will absorb most of the excess heat. If you use this method of heat control, remember to eliminate the onion from your homemade broth or gravy recipe as these turkey pan drippings will have plenty of onion goodness built right in, and isn't that how you planned it all along!?

It's okay to strain your gravy if you encounter a lumpy outcome!

A fine sieve will get the job done nicely. But, if you strain out to much of the flour, your gravy will become too thin. To solve this 'thinning' problem, return your gravy to the stove top and simmer until an acceptable consistency returns, or whisk in a bit more starch, BUT BE CAREFUL: I recommend dissolving 1 teaspoon of cornstarch in a little bit of water or broth, then whisk it into the gravy a tiny bit at a time until the gravy is thickened. Just like with a roux, you have to cook out the starchy taste, so let it simmer for a couple of minutes to be sure the taste is just right.

Sliced pumpkin pie with whipped cream

Sliced pumpkin pie with whipped cream

5). My Pumpkin Pie has a sink-hole right down the middle!

This is a kitchen holiday disaster that most every cook has encountered at some point. Custard pies, which is what your pumpkin pie is, crack because they are over cooked or they have too much starch in the mix. The best way to resolve the issue is to pull the pie from the oven just as it sets, no longer—the custard will continue to thicken while it cools. However, if you end-up with a crevasse down the middle of your holiday pie, it's time to create the illusion of perfection, and whipped cream will be your 'smoke-and-mirrors'. Pipe or spread some lightly sweetened whipped cream to cover the entire top of your pie, try to make the repair with a decorative pattern. Or, what will be perceived as a delicate and chefly touch, slice-up the pie in your kitchen, be sure to cut along the crevasse if possible. Place each slice of holiday pie on a dessert plate, add a good amount of puffy whipped cream and serve to your diners. You wanted to treat your guests special on an individual basis today, after all, it is the holidays!


Comments for Solutions to Turkey Cooking Disasters...

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on September 05, 2011:

There's the smile I needed today, my friend "Gordon Hamilton" from HubPages stopped by! I can hardly think about how close the Turkey holiday's are getting, but, as you say they will be upon us in short time for sure. I am already seeing pumpkins in the September! Oh, well, hopefully you are right and folks will keep this cooking disaster cheat sheet handy for just such occasions.

Always overjoyed to see you in the room!

BIG HubHugs~


Gordon Hamilton from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on September 04, 2011:

Wow, K9! I hope that a lot of people have not only read this but bookmarked it. We are again coming up to the time of year where this amazing advice will be especially relevant. Fabulous tips for any cook to remember! :)

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on November 15, 2010:

katiem2~ Thank you for the very encouraging comments, I value your opinion highly! I hope these help you (knock on wood) if anything goes sideways in your holiday kitchen! Thanks again for stopping by.


Livelonger~ It makes me smile to see that you enjoyed my little Thanksgiving and Christmas kitchen hub. I hope it helps! Thank you so much for the read!


Jason Menayan from San Francisco on November 15, 2010:

Thank you so much for the thorough, informative answer, K9KS! :)

Katie McMurray from Ohio on November 15, 2010:

WOW this is so cool. I love all the common areas you touched on and your brilliant tips on the best or better options. I'm rating up, and saving for future reference. I can just imagine needing this helpful collection of solutions to thanksgiving and christmas kitchen disasters. Awesome, well done and thank you!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on November 13, 2010:

prasetio30~I enjoy good pumpkin pie myself! Thank you for stopping by!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 13, 2010:

I never try turkey before, but pumpkin pie is the delicious one. Thank you very much. This hub is useful for us. Take care!


India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on November 13, 2010:

livelonger~Thank you for all your great comments.

Regarding the carving of the bird, you ask how long should the turkey rest before carving begins? Making sure that your bird has cooked to the appropriate temp (160 degrees F internal temperature) the bird should rest about 30 minutes. Now, Alton Brown--of Food Network suggest cooking the turkey to 151 degrees F internal temperature, allowing the carry over temperature (usually about 5 to 10 degrees F) to complete the cooking to the safe range and allowing the turkey to remain juicy and tender when carved. The resting of the bird allows the juices to redistribute in the turkey keeping the lovely juices where they belong, in the meat! I hope this answers your question and Be safe with that fried turkey ordeal livelonger, that technique scares me a bit!

If you carve the bird before the juices have rested and redistributed into the meat, you will find the majority of the juices on the cutting-board, along with the great texture and flavor! Just as a sidebar--Be sure to only carve off enough meat for the first servings, as the meat Will stay far more moist and warm if left on the bird and not in slices where the entire surface area of each slice cools very rapidly.

Happy Holiday to all!

~Always Choose Love~


Jason Menayan from San Francisco on November 13, 2010:

What an amazing hub!!!

As a vegetarian, I don't eat turkey, but my partner does and we cook it every year. We have been deep-frying our turkey for the last couple of years. How long is a turkey supposed to rest before you carve it? What happens if you carve immediately?


India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on November 13, 2010:

Cags! I am so jealous that you have had no mishaps in your kitchen during the holidays, wish I could say that. Possibly this year will mark the first. Thanks for the read my friend, I always value your comments.


Raymond D Choiniere from USA on November 13, 2010:

Hey K9, I would have to disagree with you about mishaps that can and do occur. I've haven't had a mishap cooking Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners in over 20 years. However, I loved your article about both events coming up. You did an awesome job. Thank you for sharing. :) :D

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on November 13, 2010:

DD~ Nice to see you came by for a Thanksgiving read! I too have the nightmares of disastrous holiday feast of season's past! I hope this hub helps at least one person avoid the situation this year. I really appreciate your comments.


Deborah Demander from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on November 13, 2010:

This is a great hub. It addresses many of the disasters I have experienced. Hopefully, it will be helpful to many more people.


India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on November 12, 2010:

Hi Kim! So nice to see you came by for a holiday read. I still have to get over and read your part 5, in your new series! Can't wait to see how the story is unfolding.

I am very excited for the holidays this year also. Thank you for the comments my friend.


kaltopsyd from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA on November 12, 2010:

You're making me excited for the holidays! Good tips! Thanks! :)

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on November 12, 2010:

MickyDee~ I gotta tell ya, it's hard to beat a good ole' PB&J on any day of the year!I've been told tofurkey can be a very yummy dish indeed. Thanks for stopping by my friend.


Micky Dee on November 12, 2010:

So how does one stuff tofu? I may just go with a peanut-butter-jelly sandwich.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on November 11, 2010:

rkhyclak~ Thank you for the comments. Link away my dear, I will have to hop over and see just what you're simplifying! Glad you could stop by for a read, happy holidays!


Nell Rose~ Cheers my friend! I am with you sister, having endured the many holiday mishaps over the years, I decided this season I was going to be as prepared as possible! Thanks for the read and nice to see you today. Happy Holidays Nell.


Nell Rose from England on November 11, 2010:

Hi, Oh this is great! I know all of these mishaps well! lol and my potato mashing and turning to mush is legendary! thanks for the great tips, cheers nell

rkhyclak from Ohio on November 11, 2010:

Awesome hub! I'm going to link it in my latest Holiday planning hub, "Simplify Your Thanksgiving Dinner." Great tips!!

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