Thanksgiving 911: Avoid turkey-day disasters

9 easy ways to avoid the most common Turkey Day disasters
Molly Watson

1. LAST-MINUTE GUESTS

Luckily, almost everyone makes too much food on Thanksgiving. For most feasts, there would have to be a half-dozen unexpected guests to seriously impact the meal. If you're planning on individual servings of any items, as the host you can always share or forsake yours.

If you run out of room at the table, set up an auxiliary eating area (kitchen counters work in a pinch, but living room coffee tables and den game tables are good options). Who sits there? It can be done by age, by birthday month, by favorite color, or simply grab the couple of people you were most looking forward to seeing and sit there with them. In any case, Thanksgiving is all about spending time together ― if you keep that in mind, everything else will follow.

2. LUMPY GRAVY

There isn't a gravy that can't be fixed. Lumps may need a lot of elbow grease and a good whisk, but they can be banished. For particularly stubborn ones, try adding a bit more hot liquid to ease them out while you whisk. If they persist, reach for a strainer (medium weave). Set it over a bowl, pour in the gravy and stir. Voilà: Smooth gravy flows through, nasty lumps stay behind. Thin gravy can be boiled to desired thickness; thick gravy can be thinned with hot broth or even water in a pinch.

3. SOMETHING'S COLD THAT SHOULD BE HOT

Many Thanksgiving favorites are perfectly yummy at room temperature. Avoid too-cool food by keeping dishes covered with foil or lids until ready to eat. Anything that has an actual chill on it can be placed back in the oven ― spread in a thin layer in a larger pan to speed things up.

4. SOMETHING'S HOT THAT SHOULD BE COLD

Here is where a professional kitchen trick comes in handy: make an ice water bath. Fill a large bowl with ice and water, now submerge the offending item (in a metal bowl for fastest results) and stir contents until cool.

5. EVERYONE IS AT THE TABLE AND THE TURKEY ISN'T DONE

You've called everyone to come and eat. Everything is on the table. You start to carve the turkey and realize it is not fully cooked. This is many a first-timers greatest fear. But fear need not enter the picture. Carve off any parts that are cooked (the breast meat probably is), serve those, and put remaining carved pieces back in a pan, cover with foil, and cook until done while everyone enjoys a bit of turkey and gets to work on the sides.

6. DRY STUFFING/WET STUFFING

If a stuffing is dry, mix in a bit of stock or drizzle with pan drippings. For wet stuffing: remove from vessel and spread out on a sheet pan. Bake until it reaches the desired consistency.

7. SOMETHING'S NOT BROWN

Whether it be turkey, potatoes, or stuffing, if something is fully cooked but hasn't acquired that appetizing brown surface, put it under a hot broiler (at least 4 inches away from the heating elements), turning as needed, until it browns. Watch very carefully (you don't want to go from pallid to burnt!), always erring on placing the item too far from the element rather than too close.

8. OVER-WHIPPED CREAM

Cream can usually be saved, at least sort of ― as long as you have a bit of unbeaten cream to re-start with. Set over-beaten cream aside and in a clean bowl whip some fresh cream just until it starts to thicken, then gently fold in the overbeaten cream. It won't be perfect, but it will be a lot better.

9. OVER-BAKED PUMPKIN PIE

You can spot an over-baked pumpkin pie by the tell-tale cracks in the top, but  no one needs to know if you goof. Simply dollop on some whipped cream and carry it to the table with a smile.

More help: 11 easy Thanksgiving do-ahead tips

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