The holidays are here again. Thanksgiving is just days away which it’s time for your annual check in with your estranged cousins and that one weird aunt who can never seem to remember your name or how old you are. Thanksgiving can be a really fun day or an absolute nightmare. With that in mind, to make sure your Turkey Day dinner is peaceful, happy, and tranquil here are 10 things to avoid doing when cooking your turkey.
10) Not thawing the turkey in time
Thanksgiving preparation gives hosts headaches. Between trying to remember the names of your cousins you haven’t seen since last Thanksgiving and getting anxiety over your in-laws coming, there’s a lot to keep straight. One thing you definitely cannot afford to forget to do however, is thaw the turkey. Like an introvert at a holiday mixer, turkeys need time to break the ice. You can thaw your turkey three days ahead if you need to. Once the day arrives, there’s really nothing you can do with a solid frozen turkey.
9) Constantly opening the oven
Don’t be a helicopter parent to your turkey. Give it some space to do its thing. Constantly opening the oven to ‘check on the bird’ only allows heat to escape the oven which adds to your cook time. That also runs the risk of overcooking your bird.
8) Over stuffing the turkey
The general rule of thumb is to put no more than 5 cups of stuffing inside a 15 lb turkey and bake the rest separately. This guideline isn’t like agreeing to Apple’s updated terms and services and you should definitely pay attention to it. Doing too much will result in the white meat being completely dried out by the time the bird reaches optimal temperature.
7) Cramming the oven
Everyone likes to find ways to be more efficient, but when it comes to baking things in the oven, don’t try and do too much at once. Like an angsty teenager going through their rebellious phase, turkeys like to be left alone. It may seem tempting to try and cram the gravy, the casserole, and the beans, and the pumpkin flan into the same oven with the turkey, but avoid the temptation. The turkey will get too done. The higher the turkey is in the oven, the more you run the risk of drying out the inside and burning the outside skin.
6) Over or under seasoning
There is a science to seasoning your turkey. Too little will result in a dry, tasteless bird and too much will likely burn some of your family member’s tongue off. So unless you’re mad at your uncle for something they said at your labor day barbecue, make sure your seasoning is just right.
5) Using the wrong thermometer
This holiday day mistake is why the phrase ‘common sense isn’t common’ was made. Sadly, every year there’s at least one person who uses an oral thermometer to check the temperature of their turkey instead of an actual kitchen thermometer. Other than the obvious problem of your guests getting mercury poisoning, oral thermometers only go up to 110 degrees. Your bird need an internal temperature at least 165 degrees. You can fill in the blanks of why this is a problem.
4) Leaving it in the oven too long
It’s understandable that you want to make sure your turkey is cooked through, but be very careful not to overcook it. The last thing you want happening is cutting into your masterpiece, only to find out the entire inside is drier than Arizona’s heat. You know the dinner scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? You don’t want that.
3) Forgetting to take the bag out
Inside every turkey is a little bag containing the gizzard, heart, and liver. One of the most important steps to cooking a turkey is removing that package from the inside. The bag is usually plastic or made of paper material. Either way, it’s not something you want to cook in your oven. Nor is the heart.
2) Leaving the turkey unattended with animals
By far the biggest mistake you can make when cooking your turkey is to leave the bird unattended. If you live anywhere with an animal population, when you’re letting your turkey cool down, make sure the back door is locked and bolted shut. You don’t want your Thanksgiving to turn into a remake of that scene from A Christmas Story where the Bumpus hounds break in and devour the turkey. If you have dogs at home, keep them in their cage or doggy-proof the kitchen.
1) Trying to deep fry your turkey
As you feast on turkey and stuff yourself with stuffing be thankful that you aren’t one of the many poor unfortunate souls who decided to deep fry their bird. Every year households across the country try to deep fry their turkey, and every year many of them end up nearly burning their house down. To avoid completely ruining dinner and having to have the local fire department as unexpected guests, avoid deep frying your turkey at all costs. You’re not Gordon Ramsey, if you absolutely have to have a deep fried bird, just get one from a grocery store.
If all else fails you and your family may just have to hop in the car and drive to a restaurant to eat your Thanksgiving meal.