Help for Thanksgiving Kitchen Emergencies

Avoid a recipe nightmare with our Kitchen-Tested problem solvers.


The Thanksgiving kitchen can be a bit chaotic, and mistakes are bound to crop up. Here are some surefire turkey-time tips that will come to the rescue when disaster seems imminent. Print this article and post it on your refrigerator just in case something goes awry.

The Bird

Got a stubbornly frozen bird on your hands? Place it in a clean sink full of cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. Don't be tempted to thaw at room temperature, in warm water, or in the microwave, all of which are invitations to harmful bacteria.

If the turkey breast is cooking faster than the thighs and is beginning overbrown, cover the breast of the turkey lightly with aluminum foil and continue roasting.

Stuffing

If the stuffing you've baked outside the bird in a casserole dish isn't crisp on top when it's done baking, put it under the broiler for a minute or two. You can do the same thing with the stuffing that's been baked inside the turkey; after it's done, just transfer it to a large oiled baking dish. Bake it at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes or so, and then broil it for a minute or two. It will be crisp on top and moist inside.

More Stuffing Tips

The Gravy

Gravy looking a little pale and tasting a little flat? Enrich the color and flavor with a few shakes of soy sauce, or add a teaspoon or two of instant coffee powder or unsweetened cocoa powder.

If your gravy has burned, stir in a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter to smooth out the rough edges and soften the smoky taste.

Don't salt your gravy until right before you serve it, as its flavor intensifies as it cooks. If you find that it is too salty, you can fix it a couple different ways:

  1. Peel a raw potato and cut it into large chunks and add it to the gravy. Cook it for 5 or 10 minutes then remove the potatoes.
  2. You can stir in 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vinegar.

If your gravy has separated, whirl it in a blender at low speed until it's smooth. Pour it into a clean pan and cook over very low heat.

If your gravy is too thick and pasty, whisk in a little chicken broth or dry white wine over low heat and cook until bubbly.

View Step-by-Step Gravy

Cranberry Sauce

Is your homemade cranberry sauce boiling over no matter how low you turn the heat? Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to the pot for every 12-ounce package of cranberries you're using. And remember, cook cranberries only until they pop. If you cook them any longer, they'll turn bitter and mushy.

Potatoes

If white potatoes that you've peeled and cut ahead of time have started to darken, cook them in milk (don't let the milk boil) to brighten them.

Large, fresh sweet potatoes can be very stringy and fibrous. If you've used a hand-masher and the strings are bothersome to you, use an electric mixer to beat the cooked potatoes. The strings will wind themselves around the beaters and your potatoes will be creamy and smooth.

View Potato Secrets

Vegetables

Lost track of time and overcooked your vegetables? Put them in the food processor with a little butter, cream, fresh-ground pepper, and salt and puree them until smooth. Don't tell a soul that isn't how you intended them to be served in the first place, and no one will be the wiser.

Soups

If your cream-based soup has curdled, strain the soup into a blender jar (fill it only two-thirds full) and blend until it's smooth. Make sure the lid is on tight and that you hold it while wearing an oven mitt. Return it to a clean pan and heat over low heat.

If a soup seems to have an excessive amount of fat floating in it, add a few lettuce leaves to the pot of finished soup and let it stand a few minutes. Lettuce leaves soak up fat.

Get a little overzealous with the salt? Fix it similarly to the way you fix an oversalted gravy: Peel and thinly slice a raw potato and simmer it in the soup for 10 minutes or so. It will absorb some of the excess salt. Scoop out the slices with a slotted spoon before serving.

Bread

If your dinner rolls are a little dried out, wrap them loosely in aluminum foil and heat in a 300 degree F oven for 15 minutes. The last 4 or 5 minutes of reheating, unwrap the rolls slightly so the outside will crisp up just a bit. Serve immediately.

Pie

If your pie dough has too much added liquid and is too wet to roll out, wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it just until firm (but not hard as a rock) before you roll it out.

If your beautifully fluted pie crust is starting to burn before the pie is done baking, cut the bottom out of a disposable aluminum pie plate that is the same size as the pie you're baking. Turn it upside-down over the pie to cover the edges. The center will continue to bake and the crust won't burn.

If you've overwhipped the cream for the pumpkin pie, simply fold in a few tablespoons of milk or unwhipped cream.

View Sweetened Whipped Cream


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