I love inviting my friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. We laugh, talk and eat to our heart’s content! Preparing and cooking the turkey is one of my favorite things to do. I always get lots of compliments for the special touches I incorporate into the meal; however, years ago, when I hosted my first Thanksgiving gathering, I made a lot of mistakes when it came to meal preparation. I am fortunate to have a group of understanding friends who helped me through it. For this week’s blog, I thought I would offer some Thanksgiving dinner tips to help make your gathering a success. I’m going to share some of my Thanksgiving meal mistakes so you can avoid some of my missteps.
Nine Dangerous Thanksgiving Dinner Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
1. Forgetting to Thaw the Bird. This is a big one. If you’re in charge of cooking the turkey you need to thaw it a few days ahead of time. The rule is to allow 24 hours of thaw time for every five pounds of bird. Most people thaw a turkey in a pan in the refrigerator. To be sure it is thawed, stick your meat thermometer in the thickest part of the bird and make sure it reads forty degrees. Remember: You can’t just pop a frozen turkey in to the microwave an hour before your first guest knocks at your door!
2. Serving Lumpy Gravy- Lumpy gravy usually happens when a cook is rushing the process. For instance, if you start putting too much flour into your hot broth at a fast rate your gravy will start to take on lumps. Make sure that you slowly add the flour to the hot broth and stir it with a whisk as you go. If you still have lumpy gravy, try pouring it through a sieve into another bowl and hide those lumps in the garbage!
3. Serving Cold Food- When a Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t begin on schedule it can cause food items to get cold. Perhaps dinner is delayed because several guests are late or a particular dish is taking longer to cook. Whatever the reason, turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls etc. are not appetizing when served cold. A simple answer to this is a food warmer. Plug-in your food warmer and put your items on it, or in it, so they won’t get cold.
4. Forgetting the Appetizers- Sometimes all of the guests arrive on time only to find that the dinner is not ready. Without appetizers to keep them busy, your guests may feel the need to poke their head into the kitchen to ask about the progress of the dinner. This can cause a host or hostess even more stress. A few simple plates of appetizers can distract your guests from the fact that Thanksgiving dinner is running a little late.
5. Deep Frying a Turkey Without a Plan- If this is something you are interested in doing, you certainly need to avoid putting too much oil in to your fryer. If you overfill it, the fryer can overflow when the turkey is put in and start a fire! Find out how much oil you will need by putting the turkey in to the fryer and filling it with water. The turkey should be immersed and have just one inch or less of water above it. Take out the turkey and mark the water line. This process will help you gauge how much oil you need to safely deep fry the turkey.
6. Burning the Rolls. Yes, I have done this before. It makes me cry to think of those beautiful, fluffy rolls with blackened tops. My mistake was putting the rolls in an oven that was too hot for them. I had just taken the stuffing out after cooking it at 400 degrees. The rolls only needed to be cooked at 350 degrees. Be aware of the oven’s temperature. I can tell you from personal experience that not everyone likes their roll covered in grape jelly.
7. Undercooking the Turkey. It can be very embarrassing for a guest to bite into a piece of cold turkey, especially when it’s not supposed to be cold! That’s why it’s so important to monitor the temperature of the turkey. Use your meat thermometer to check the thickest parts of the turkey to make sure it is cooked evenly. The thickest part of the thigh should be 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. NOT Sharing the Stress- If you don’t want to make the turkey, gravy, stuffing, beans, etc. all by yourself, enlist your friends to help. Make it a potluck Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone can bring their grandmother’s favorite recipe for stuffing or mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes… That way, all of your guests can blame the person’s grandmother if any dish doesn’t taste as good as it looks!
9. Forgetting a Carving Knife- It’s hard to get anywhere cutting a turkey with a butter knife. So, make sure you have a knife that is ideal for slicing turkey. There are manual and even electric carving knives that can make slicing a breeze.
I hope these Thanksgiving dinner tips prove helpful to you and your family. Happy eating!-Sophie