It's the most important meal of the year, and you're cooking the star dish. No pressure, right? It's inevitable that something could go wrong. So, how can you course-correct if the worst happens and your Thanksgiving food fails? Try out these clever hacks to save your dish disaster, and no one will know the difference! Shhh! It's our little secret!

Thanksgiving food on a table, from Shelf Cooking

Oh no!!! The family is coming for Thanksgiving and you've learned that one of your dishes is an epic fail. You're thinking, “It can't be a fail! It's Thanksgiving!”

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Hold on just a minute. Don't freak out just yet. You're not the first to make a mistake at Thanksgiving, and you won't be the last. Just in time to save the day, here are some clever hacks to fix even the biggest Thanksgiving meal blunders.


We know how hard you've worked on this meal and how badly you want it to be just perfect. We ALSO know that when the pressure is on and you're stressing over a meal, bad things can happen.

Whether it's your first time hosting the holiday or your fortieth, don't let a meal mistake get you down. Thanksgiving food fails happen to everyone from time to time (you don't learn without making a few mistakes along the way). So, when they do, just use one of these simple solutions to get back on the right track.


Turkey with a meat thermometer, from Shelf Cooking

For most Thanksgiving meals, the turkey and the ham are the stars of the show (amiright?). However, even when something goes wrong, the show must go on. Arm yourself with this list of handy hacks for when things go awry, and you'll be set. Grab your meat thermometer and let's get to it!

  • Turkey Is Still Frozen – Don't panic if your bird is still icy on Thanksgiving morning. You CAN cook a frozen bird perfectly safely. It takes about 50% longer than the normal cook time based on the weight of your turkey. The downside? You won't be able to have any fancy brines or rubs on your turkey but's okay if the flavor is pretty basic! Just make sure the thickest part of the breast reaches an internal temp of 165°F before eating.
  • Turkey Cooked Too Fast – Is your turkey done well before the guests arrive? If so, then set it in a warm area of your counter and cover the top of your turkey with aluminum foil in a tent-shape to hold the heat in. If you need to, you can place it back into the warm oven for 10-15 minutes before carving to heat it again slightly. No one will even know!
  • Turkey Is Still Raw – While not convenient, you should cover your turkey with aluminum foil and return it to the oven. Just keep on cooking and check it every 30 minutes until the thickest part of the breast reaches an internal temp of 165°F. Make sure to keep your dinner sides warm while you finish your turkey.
  • Turkey Is Bone Dry – Put three cups of turkey, chicken, or vegetable broth in a microwave dish to heat. Then carve your turkey and dip each piece in the broth for a few seconds. Serve with extra gravy.
  • Salty Ham – When you carve your ham, give it a taste test. If the first slice is super salty, then combat it with sweetness. Glaze the rest of your ham with a mixture of one cup honey to 3 or 4 tablespoons of fruit juice.

With a little extra effort and some quick thinking on your feet, you can still salvage that main dish in time for dinner. We can't wait to hear all about how you saved the day! You've got this!


Thanksgiving stuffing on a table, from Shelf Cooking

The side dishes may not be the star of the show, but they are still uber important to the meal. And just because your side dish didn't turn out how you'd hoped doesn't mean that it's ruined. Here are the most common ways your side can go sideways and how you can fix it:

  • Pasty Mashed Potatoes – Did you get a little overzealous when you were mashing those potatoes? Overworking them can make them gluey. If this happens to you, turn those potatoes into a casserole by spreading them in a baking pan, drizzling with melted butter, and then covering them with grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake at 350°F until golden and bubbly.
  • Watery Green Bean Casserole – If your casserole looks like it's swimming in liquid, remove the soggy onions from the top and ladle as much sauce from the top as you can. If you have more onions, then add them. If not, just go without. Return the casserole to the oven and bake for 10 more minutes.
  • Stuffing Is Too Dry – If your stuffing is so dry it looks like salad croutons, don't fret. Melt some butter with a little chicken stock in a saucepan and pour the mixture over the stuffing. Keep warm until it's time to serve. Good as new!
  • Cranberry Sauce is Inedible – Even if your cranberry sauce has a little too much of a kick and gives you a bitter pucker, resist adding sugar! Instead, add a tablespoon each of maple syrup and fruit juice and taste again. Keep adding sweetener a little at a time until it tastes just right.
  • Soggy Salad – We've been there. You were in a bit of a hurry and added TOO much dressing to your salad. Now it's completely drenched. To course correct, put your leaves into a salad spinner and spin out as much liquid as you can. If possible, add some more fresh lettuce to your salad to fix it up.

We know that a true shelf cook never gives up when things get messy. Thanksgiving food fails won't stop you! Just get creative about finding a solution, and then get to work. We can't wait to see what YOU create.


Pumpkin pie on a table, from Shelf Cooking

Many of us look forward to the dessert at the end of the meal more than anything else about Thanksgiving. So, it may seem like a huge deal if your dessert comes out looking less than impressive. Don't sweat it. Here are some simple fixes to the most common dessert disasters:

  • No Pie Crust – Uh oh. You're assembling your ingredients to bake your pie, and you realize the worst has happened. You forgot to buy a pie crust, and there's just not enough time to make one from scratch. No worries! Put your fruit filling in a baking dish and top with a simple crumble topping of flour, sugar, and butter for a yummy dessert alternative.
  • Your Pie is Cracked – Did you made a pumpkin pie or cheesecake and the top looks like an earthquake divided it into two? No big deal! Just dress that baby up with a little extra whipped cream or even powdered sugar and no one will even notice.
  • Burned Pie Crust – Oh no! Your pie cooked a little unevenly and the edges of your crust are burned to a crisp? Just use a sharp knife to slice off the edges of your crust. Then, pipe some whipped cream around the edge to replace the crust.

Whew. Yes, Thanksgiving is so much work, but remember: it's just a meal. If things don't work out with your dish, keep in mind that the important thing is the time you spend with family and the memories you make together.

We'd love to hear your most memorable Thanksgiving meal memory. Comment below and share with us.

Image with text that reads "how to easily fix Thanksgiving food fails" from Shelf Cooking

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