It’s your first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and you’re sweating bullets.
The turkey is a whiter shade of pale, the potatoes are overcooked, the gravy has an oil slick floating on top, and your In-laws just pulled in the driveway.

Don’t panic. Take a deep breath-we can fix this. Here’s what to do to fix almost any Thanksgiving disaster:

Problem: turkey not thawed
If your turkey hasn’t been thawing in the refrigerator for the last day or so, you can thaw it in an emergency by placing it in the sink and filling it with cool water. It may take several hours. Change the water every hour or so, making sure the water in the sink stays below 40 degrees.

Problem: to stuff or not to stuff?
Because of food safety concerns, it’s probably best to make stuffing outside the bird, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. But if you want a traditional stuffed bird, be sure to pre-cook all ingredients, use pasteurized egg products, stuff the turkey loosely immediately before cooking, and make sure the stuffing reaches a temperature of at least 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove stuffing as soon as the bird comes out of the oven and put it in a container.

Problem: knowing when the turkey is done
The turkey is done if the legs and wings move freely and the juices run clear when the meatiest part of the thigh is punctured with a meat fork.

Problem: making sure it’s done but not dry
Get a kitchen thermometer. They’re available at most grocery stores and kitchen stores, with prices ranging from $4.95 for an inexpensive dial model to $89 for one that will make a sous chef drool. The bird is done when the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh is 180 degrees.

Problem: Making good gravy
There are three secrets to making perfect gravy: use a wire whisk to stir the gravy to avoid lumps; make sure to thoroughly cook the flour in the fat (before adding liquid) to avoid a starchy taste; and salt is the key to the best flavor.

Problem: gravy is lumpy
Pour the gravy through a sieve into another saucepan. Don’t press the gravy through – just let it drip through the sieve.

Problem: mashed potatoes overcooked
Use dry powdered milk instead of milk for the fluffiest mashed potatoes.

Problem: burnt gravy
Stir in a spoonful of peanut butter to mask the burnt taste.

Problem: gravy too thick
Add low-sodium chicken broth and whisk it in until gravy is desired consistency, Board says.

Problem: gravy too thin
If there’s enough time, simmer gravy uncovered until it evaporates to desired consistency. If there’s no time for simmering, dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 1/4 cup water and add while boiling and stirring. Repeat if necessary.

Problem: gravy too bland
A shot of sherry or Madeira wine will lend flavor to bland gravy. Salt and pepper or poultry seasoning will bring out the flavor in the natural juices.

Problem: dish is too sweet
For each tablespoon of cornstarch, substitute 2 tablespoon of all-purpose flour.

Problem: dish is too salty
Add a little vinegar and sugar.

Problem: pie dough cracks when rolling it out
Dough is either too dry or too cold. If it seems to be crumbling apart, work a few drops of ice waters into the dough if dough just cracks at the edges, let it sit on the counter for a few minutes and try rolling again.

Problem: piecrust doesn’t brown on bottom
Place the pie on the bottom oven rack, and begin baking at 425 to 450 degrees. After about 20 minutes, reduce temperature to whatever the recipe calls for. The initial high temperature will help the crust to brown.

Problem: edges of pie are cooking too fast
“Cover the edges of the crust with pieces of aluminum foil, shiny-side out to slow down the browning,” says Brookes Wolfe of Alexander.

Problem: real whipped cream won’t whip
Chill the cream, bowl and beaters well. Set the bowl of cream in a bowl of ice while you are whipping. If you need to whip your cream ahead of time, add a touch of unflavored gelatin (1/4 teaspoon per cup) to keep it from separating.

Problem: your hands smell like garlic or onion
Rinse them under cold water while rubbing with a large stainless steel spoon.

1 Comment so far »

  1. Thanksgiving « AskBillFirst - Non-Tech Speak Technology Blog said

    November 25 2008 @ 10:28 pm

    […] However, when things go wrong with the food, you can find some quick fixes at http://www.chefrick.com/thanksgiving-food-first-aid/ […]

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