6 Thanksgiving Emergencies and How to Save the Day

A turkey being cut in the middle of a Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving is upon us, and it’s always fun to host the holiday for all of your friends and family. From the delicious turkey to all of the trimmings, there’s a lot to be planned leading up to the big day. With that being said, it can be tough to prepare yourself for everything that can occur along the course of the day. Keep reading to learn about some common Thanksgiving “emergencies” and what to do about them to ensure your guests don’t even know you ran into a snafu.

1. Dull Knives

A knife being sharpened on a whetstone.

While this certainly isn’t the end of the world, dull knives can make cutting up the turkey—the main event of the whole meal—seem almost impossible. Sharper knives can cut the cutting time in half and, believe it or not, dull knives are more of a safety risk in the kitchen. Plus, withstanding a battle just to cut your meat is frustrating. The best way to combat this issue is to be proactive. Sharpen your knives before the big day to avoid being a dumbfounded butcher once the turkey comes out of the oven. Do this using either an electric knife sharpener, a sharpening steel, or a whetstone.

2. You Overcook the Bird

Some may argue that overcooking a turkey and ending up with a burnt and dried out finished product is the worst-case scenario. But there are some workarounds. Check on your turkey regularly while it’s in the oven. If you notice it has burnt, immediately flip it over in the pan and continue to cook it through. Then, when it’s finished cooking, simply trim the blackened pieces and discard. If the bird comes out too dry, add some turkey stock to a spray bottle and spritz the meat once it’s sliced. Alternatively, slice the meat and then dribble some turkey stock over it. Cover it, then place back in the oven and bake for a few more minutes so it will absorb the moisture.

3. The Bird Is Undercooked

A turkey cooking in an oven with aluminum foil on it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it can feel like a disaster if the cooking time on your bird is up, but the meat is still raw. With hungry guests around you, this may inspire panic. However, there is a way to fix this problem. Cover the entirety of the turkey with tin foil to prevent burnt skin, then turn up the heat of the oven (although don’t exceed 475°F).

4. The Turkey Didn’t Thaw in Time

Whether you pulled your turkey out of the freezer a little late or if it’s just taking longer than expected to thaw, a semi-frozen turkey can feel like an emergency on Thanksgiving day. To speed up the thaw time, submerge the bird in cold water. Put it in the liquid breast-side down, changing out the water every half an hour. It should soak for 30 minutes per pound. If you don’t even have time for this workaround, you can actually cook the bird frozen—it’ll just take a bit longer!

5. You Experience a Drain Clog

A plunger being used on a clogged sink.

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the year for plumbers, as garbage disposals end up broken, pipes and drains become clogged, and a range of other issues arise as people are using their kitchen in an increased capacity. If you experience a drain clog because some grease or oil made its way into your sink, there are ways to keep it from turning into a plumbing disaster. Start by filling the sink with a few inches of water and then plunging it. For most minor clogs, this is a viable solution.

If this doesn’t work, you’ll have to turn to underneath the sink. Remove the trap with a pipe wrench and then unscrew the large, threaded coupling on the PVC plastic trap. Usually this step can be done by hand. Carefully empty the water from the trap into a bucket, making sure the trap isn’t the location of the clog, and clearing it as needed.

6. You’re Out of Oven Space

With so many dishes to cook and what feels like so little time to do it, you may find that your oven is quickly getting crowded. To avoid some of your dishes ending up freezing cold by the time they hit the table, you may need to get creative. If your oven is full, keep things warm by putting a dish such as the mashed potatoes in a slow cooker on the "keep warm" setting to maintain their desired warmth. Another easy way to ensure everything is warm when you serve it is to use the time where you’re trimming the turkey to reheat some side dishes in the oven.

Although things sometimes tend to go wrong on a special holiday, hosting should be fun! Make it a Thanksgiving to remember (in a good way!) by expertly navigating any issue that arises with these handy tips.