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15 Mistakes You’ll Probably Make This Thanksgiving

Good news: We know how to fix your goof-ups.

thanksgiving family dinnerLightField Studios/Shutterstock

There’s a lot of pressure

On a big holiday like Thanksgiving, something is bound to go wrong. Get familiar with these Thanksgiving mistakes so you know how to fix them when they happen on the big day. Make sure you don’t make these 15 common Thanksgiving mistakes this year.

Nothing will be ready on time

It goes without saying that the sweet potatoes will be ready three hours before the turkey, which will come out an hour before the cranberries, if you even remember to serve them.

Here’s what to do: Make a game plan and stick to it. Starting a week ahead of the Big Day, make a list of every dish you’ll be serving and figure out what can be made ahead of time and frozen, and how long everything takes to prepare and cook. Don’t leave out any step, including how long something will take to serve. Here are a few more tricks for storing leftover food safely.

Served small split roasted turkey stuffed with vegetables on dark background ltummy/Shutterstock

You’ll buy too large a turkey

On Thanksgiving, we’re all gluttons. (If ostriches were available at our local ShopRite, we would all serve them instead of a turkey). But size does matter, and too much turkey means more thawing time, more cooking time, and more turkey-tetrazzini-leftovers-eating time.

Here’s what to do: A good rule of thumb: one pound of turkey per person. So if you’re having eight guests for Thanksgiving, you’ll need an eight-pound bird. If your guests are a bunch of oinkers, you might be able to Amazon yourself that ostrich. Here are 10 tips for buying the perfect turkey.

Whole raw turkey in casserole on grey backgroundAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

You’ll forget to defrost the too-large turkey

“OMG! I bought the fittest turkey ever! Check out its rock-hard abs and pecs!” Sadly, the bird is rock hard because you forgot to thaw it out.

Here’s what to do: Give the bird a bath. Fill a large bucket, sink, or bathtub with cold water and let it bathe breast down. If it’s fully frosted, allow 30 minutes per pound. Don’t miss these 10 mistakes to avoid when prepping your turkey.

Raw Duck hearts on crumpled paper, decorated with greens and vegetables. on old wooden table.DronG/Shutterstock

You’re going to leave the giblets inside the turkey

Do you recall studying giblets in biology class? Neither do I. But that burning smell coming from inside the turkey? That’s the bag of giblets you were supposed to remove before popping the bird in the oven.

Here’s what to do: Remove the giblets before popping the bird in the oven!

These Thanksgiving vacation ideas will give you some much-needed relaxation after all that cooking.

Overhead view of the hands of a man carving a roast turkey with a carving knife and fork slicing the breast meat ready for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinnerStephen Gibson/Shutterstock

You’ll Texas Chainsaw Massacre your turkey

Let’s face it, you’ve spent weeks planning your meal only to have the carving board end up looking like a crime scene.

Here’s what to do: First things first, says Cooking Light, with the turkey on a carving board, remove the string tying the legs together (50 Shades of Fowl!). Then: 1. Remove the legs, thighs, and wings by slicing down until you reach the joint. Grabbing the leg or wing, push down until separated from the bird. 2. To remove the turkey breasts, find the breastbone. Position a long, flexible knife on one side of it, and slice downward, as close to the bone as possible. As you slice, use your other hand to pull the meat away from the breastbone in one piece. 3. To slice the breast meat, use tongs to steady the breast, position the meat so you’ll cut it at its shorter length. Slice against the grain, taking care to keep the skin attached. Use these other 16 tips for keeping your sanity if you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year.

set of authentic french Cheese plate served with grapes, honey, homemade chocolate sweets and nuts on wooden round board on dark background, view from abovefrom my point of view/Shutterstock

All your focus will go to the main meal

You’re in the kitchen, whistling while you work, oblivious to the nasty scene unwinding in the other room. Your hungry guests have gone from peckish to ravenous, and they’re starting to snarl at each other about how little there is to be thankful for.

Here’s what to do: Have simple snacks like nuts or cheese and crackers ready when your guests start trickling in. I guarantee no amount of hors d’eouvres will keep them from gorging themselves during the turkey dinner. Here’s how long Thanksgiving leftovers last in the fridge.

Cranberry relishIvana Lalicki/Shutterstock

You won’t ask about dietary restrictions

Apparently, your cousin has gone vegan since the last time you saw her, and the only thing on her plate is cranberry sauce—even your Brussels sprouts have bacon in them. Now she’s digging around in your cupboard for something, anything to eat with her cranberry sauce.

Here’s what to do: Everyone deserves the opportunity to stuff themselves until they burst on Thanksgiving, so double check with your guests about dietary restrictions beforehand. You’ll probably need to have at least one vegetarian-friendly or gluten-free dish on the table, but you can also request your guests bring a dish they can eat (and share).

Homemade butter pie crust in pie plate with fluted pinched edge, rolling pin and extra ball of dough over floured rustic wooden background. Crust has been perforated with fork and ready for baking.Stephanie Frey/Shutterstock

You’ll try to do everything yourself

This is your big day to prove to your mother-in-law once and for all that you’re perfectly capable of cooking one simple meal, thankyouverymuch. So, of course, you want to pull out all the stops by making everything from scratch. Heck, you’ll even churn the butter yourself.

Here’s what to do: Ask guests to bring a dish, and have your family help with the cooking and setup. It’s not admitting defeat, it’s just protecting your family from the inevitable meltdown you’ll have T-minus 30 minutes from mealtime. Try these 23 mouthwatering Thanksgiving side dishes that are easy to make.

Tasty turkey gravy in saucepanAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Your gravy will be lumpy

Ah, gravy, the finishing touch that pulls everything on your plate together and makes your (oops) dry turkey delicious. Too bad yours always ends up too lumpy or too thin.

Here’s what to do: The trick to getting gravy just right to take the drippings from your roasting pan (your turkey should set before you carve it anyway) and whisk in an equal amount of flour, according to Once that’s lump-free, keep whisking while you add the stock.

15 Mistakes You’ll Probably Make This ThanksgivingAleksandrova Karina/Shutterstock

Your mashed potatoes will be way too sticky

You’ve finally served the food, your plate is loaded, and you’re digging in … only to have your mouth stick together from gluey mashed potatoes when you’re trying to grill your neice about why she hasn’t had kids yet. One crisis averted, perhaps, but there’s a potato problem on your hands.

Here’s what to do: That sticky texture comes from the potatoes’ starch, which gets released when you furiously mash those spuds again and again and again. Keep mashing to a minimum by using a potato ricer, and add butter before milk or stock so that the starch doesn’t absorb the water in the liquid, suggests Cook’s Illustrated. Check out these other 20 kitchen tools that make Thanksgiving so much easier.

Traditional stuffing side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas in a baking panElena Veselova/Shutterstock

Your stuffing will be soggy

“Soggy and mushy” were not the words you were going for when you were making your stuffing.

Here’s what to do: This is one of the few times when fresh isn’t best. Give your bread a few days to dry out (read: get stale) before making the stuffing, suggests Make sure you know this is the absolute worst day to shop for your Thanksgiving groceries.

pumpkin pie recipe concept - woman whisking in cinnamon and spices for batter shot from pov viewJoshua Resnick/Shutterstock

You’ll overbake the pumpkin pie

You could have sworn you took the pie out of the oven in time, but now it’s over-baked and the top is cracked.

Here’s what to do: Your pie keeps cooking after you take it out of the oven, so take it out sooner than later when there’s “still a little jiggle in the center of the pie,” suggests Bon Appetit. Or you can always just top it with whipped cream and pretend it never happened.

African american unhappy couple sitting on couch after quarrel fight thinking of break up or divorce, black upset man and woman not talking having conflict, bad relationships concept, close up viewfizkes/Shutterstock

You’re going to argue with your brother-in-law

You know someone will say something stupid, which will cause you to say something stupid back, which will result in someone else spewing their offensive brand of stupidity, which means…

Here’s what to do: “Do your homework,” says, and “anticipate” anything stupid that might be said. Research political arguments and reconsider past family scraps, this way you can “predict how you may react” to what’s thrown at you (preferably not the turkey). Here’s what Thanksgiving could look like this year.

Woman hand remote controlmonicayeom/Shutterstock

You’re going to be a football widow

On that last Thursday of November, the thing that some people are most thankful for are the football games playing that day. If you’re not one of them, take heart.

Here’s what to do: The Los Angeles Times suggests that this is your chance to do whatever it is you’ve wanted to do, but Mr. or Mrs. Football wasn’t into. Work off your meal by going for a walk/hike or to the gym. Clean out your closets and donate whatever you don’t need. Read a novel. Or you can do what we do at my home: Pass out from all the food.

Male Shopping bagTumMP/Shutterstock

You’ll shop on a full stomach

The real sport on Thanksgiving Day isn’t football, it’s a game called Survivor: Mall! Millions of Americans will cut their holiday short in order to do their best Roller Derby imitation in an attempt to get great Black Friday deals. Will you emerge with a half-priced Sony TV or three fewer teeth?

Here’s what to do: Don’t go. Those cheap-o prices? Chances are they’ll get lower as the season progresses, says The Wall Street Journal. Besides, better deals can often be found at other times of the year. Plus, like Pavlov’s shopping dog, you see the sign “SALE!” and you’re bound to salivate, spending more than you’d intended. For more Thanksgiving laughs, check out these 27 hilarious (and real!) calls to the Butterball hotline.


  • The “7 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Gravy”
  • Bon Appetit: “Don’t Ruin Thanksgiving With These Common Pumpkin Pie Mistakes”
  • Delish: “8 Stuffing Mistakes Everyone Makes”
  • Cooks Illustrated: “6 Common Thanksgiving Cooking Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)”
Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.

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