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10 Thanksgiving Food Mistakes Everyone Makes

Posted in Food Safety,Our Blog on November 14, 2018

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and while we’d like for that to mean delicious food, a cozy evening, and pleasant time spent with family, the truth of the matter is that often this day doesn’t go by without some type of hiccup. Good news is that some of the most common Thanksgiving day mistakes are easily avoidable if you prepare for them and make a plan. So with that, here are 10 of the most common Thanksgiving Food Mistakes and some tips on how you can keep that from happening to you!

  1. Purchasing the wrong sized turkey. While you might be accustomed to feeding your family of four on a relatively small chicken, preparing a meal for a table of 12 or more can be entirely confusing! It’s hard to know how much people will eat. So before you even go to the store, figure out how many people will be attending your meal in order to determine what size turkey you need. If turkey is the only main protein and there isn’t any ham to help it stretch, then estimate about a pound per person, or more if you’re into leftovers. Remember that you can always get two smaller birds if a huge one intimidates you, or you can add a ham to the meal as well.
  2. Not thawing your bird in time. Turkeys are often purchased frozen, and forgetting to thaw it in time is one of the most common mistakes made. A good estimate is to allow 24 hours of thawing time in the refrigerator for every 5 pounds of meat, meaning that a five-pound bird would need a day and a 20-pound bird would need four days. If you haven’t allowed for enough thawing time and you bring your still-icey-bird out on Thanksgiving morning, however, then consider setting it in the sink, a bucket, or even the bathtub and filling the cavity with water. This can thaw one pound of turkey per every 30 minutes (just remember to thoroughly clean and sanitize anything that might have been splashed with raw turkey juice afterwards).
  3. You don’t dry the turkey’s skin before stuffing or cooking. Everyone likes crispy skin and delicious meat, so you’re in for a rude awakening if you skip this important step of drying your bird. Be sure to dry the skin and cavity of the bird or it will end up squishy and soggy after baking.
  4. You don’t cook the turkey all the way. Get that meat thermometer out and check that bird!
  5. You actually stuff your turkey. The issues with stuffing your turkey is that, A) it soaks up the juices from the turkey, sometimes resulting in a drier bird, and B) it makes it difficult to allow the entire bird (and stuffing!) to reach a hot enough temperature to fully cook and kill any bacteria, creating a situation ripe for salmonella food poisoning. You can either fill the cavity with spices, herbs, and fruits and bake your stuffing in a casserole dish, or you can allow for a lot of extra cooking time and invest in a proper thermometer to be sure your bird cooks entirely.
  6. You don’t allow your turkey a chance to rest before cutting into it. Practically every meat you ever cook benefits from resting for a small time before getting cut into with a knife. Not only will it continue to cook slightly and ensure a safe meal, but the juices within the meat will begin to reabsorb, making it much juicier and flavorful, helping you to prevent any dry mouthfuls of turkey. Once you remove your turkey from the oven, allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes before beginning the carving process.
  7. You carve your bird wrong. Believe it or not, you’ll be able to save more of the turkey’s flavorful juice if you cut the turkey correctly, meaning there is a right and wrong way to carve a bird! For the breast meat, begin at the top of the breast bone and move along the bone until the breast is removed. For the thigh meat and the drum stick, cut into the joint attaching them to the bird and tug until it’s removed. Then carefully remove the remainder of the meat from the bones, and slice into appropriate serving sizes.
  8. You fail to properly plan out your day. Thanksgiving is a meal filled with many different elements, ingredients, baking times, and more, meaning that it requires some planning and organization in order to result in a successful meal. Before the day, you should be sure you know what meals you’re making, how long each one takes, what temperature it needs to be cooked at, and develop a plan for when and how you’ll cook each element. Any dishes that can be made ahead of time should be made on Tuesday or Wednesday and then simply reheated before the actual meal.
  9. You wait until the very last minute to shop. This is a bad idea because you might not be able to find what you need. All the good turkeys will be gone, and you might end up missing a good deal of other ingredients–not to mention the fact that the grocery stores are absolute nightmares the closer you get to a big holiday like this one. Save yourself the stress and busyness and just shop a little earlier this year.
  10. You don’t ask for help. Have I mentioned that Thanksgiving is a big day? Or that the Thanksgiving meal has a lot of elements? Even the best cooks understand that sometimes they need support in order to deliver the best meal they can, so don’t hesitate to ask for help. Not only are your guests perfectly capable of making a dish and bringing it to the meal, but they also might like helping, and it will be good to have one less thing to worry over or fight for oven space. Ask everyone who is coming to bring a dish or a dessert and you’re meal will be much easier to put together.

By: Abbey Ryan Elder, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)