HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Thanksgiving day diasters. Yours?

Thinking back on Thanksgiving day dinners, a couple of dinner-disasters really stick out in my mind. Actually, they both occurred on the same Thanksgiving, hosted by my sister (who I hope doesn't visit this site).

First was the mashed potatoes. She boiled them the night before and left them sitting in water until the next day. They basically turned to glue. Of course it was my job to finish them off, so I got the credit (not really) for the end product. They were horrible.

Second was her husbands brain-storm to try a new technique for cooking the turkey that he saw Martha Stewart do. She covered the turkey with cheesecloth and poured a bottle of white wine over it. Then placed at the very bottom of the oven with root vegetables under the bird. Problem was that by BIL's stove was gas, so the flame was an inch or two below the bird. By the time it was done, the veggies were burned beyond recognition and the drippings were horrible. And, it was my wife's task to make the gravy from this mess. Needless to say, the gravy was horrible, so she took the hit for that. (Of course everyone raved about all the food, despite the fact that is was horrible).

So what are your TDay disasters?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. My first TD in my own apt. and I was cooking dinner for my BF and his parents... This was the before I knew about food safety, so I had put the frozen bird in the sink to finish defrosting while I went out to run some errands.

    When I returned home, I found my cats had attacked the turkey, torn through the plastic and and eaten off the wing tips. When I walked in one (Zbigniew- it was the Carter era) was still lapping at the frozen breast with fierce determination. I ended up washing it and trimming the wings and soldiering on.

    So it wasn't really that much a of a disaster. It is amazing how good-natured people can be about bad food. During that same time, I taught myself to make pecan pie. My first came out looking like something from a tar pit. I sent it off with the same BF when he went camping with his friends. Everyone assured me it was delicious, but perhaps everything tastes better when you're camping (and high if I knew them).

    1. Not mine personally, but I went to one a few years ago in which the oven died right in the middle of everything.

      That was problematic.

      1 Reply
      1. re: FuzzyDunlop

        Similar tale of woe....A half hour into baking 2 pies to bring to The Feast, the entire neighborhood goes dark from a power failure. Can't go next door and use their oven. Hmm, should I light the gas grill and take my chances? Well, I left 'em in the oven for close to 2 hours and they were great. Maybe I've hit on something....Adam
        P.S. Happy Thanksgiving CH'ers!!!!

      2. Ours are never with the food, but rather the plumbing. On a number of occasions over the years, the drain line in for our kitchen sink & dishwasher has clogged -- apparently from an overabundance of potato peelings and congealed fat -- making it impossible to wash dishes either by hand or in the dw on T-giving Day. Most memorable was 3 years ago, when we had 21 people for T-giving. My sister-in-law & I spent the evening in the laundry room, washing in the basin there. I have read that the day after T-giving is the highest volume day for emergency calls to plumbers.

        1 Reply
        1. re: masha

          potato peelings and congealed fat
          number of occasions over the years
          sink & dishwasher has clogged

          hmmmmm. do you detect a pattern? i never put those down the disposal. you're asking for problems.

        2. A friend of mine, not an experienced cook, was given a frozen turkey by her workplace. It was partly thawed when she started to clean it. She had heard that it's important to remove the little sack containing the giblets, so she reached in, starting at the neck end which was more thawed. She was reaching around trying to find it, and her hand slid through the opening and into the body cavity - and wouldn't slide back. Her frantic attempts to pull her hand back only made it worse as it began to swell from the tight constriction around her wrist.

          She wrapped a towel around the turkey, called a cab, and was driven to the nearest emergency room, where they were able to saw the turkey open and release her.

          She said the worst part was the fact that she worked at that hospital, and by the time she went back to work on Friday, the story - with photos - was posted on every bulletin board in the building.

          2 Replies
          1. re: judybird

            When this post is done, I am going to give an honorary award to the funniest disaster. Right now I don't see how anyone can top yours. Could have been an episode on I Love Lucy!

            1. re: judybird

              Ok, so my wife is questioning the authenticity of this story. It just seems too funny to be true. Are you sure you're not a script writer for sitcoms? Any chance the pictures are still around and you could post them? That would ensure you're 1st place spot (there's no actual prize of course).

            2. my sister-in-law and her husband always used to have TD. as the family grew it was decided to prepare a 2nd turkey on the weber. we read up on it and decided it would be best if we could first break the breast bone and collapse the turkey in order not to have the cavity fill up with hot air. so they got two large cutting boards out. placed the first one on the floor, placed the turkey on this board, then s-in-l held the other board on top of the turkey as b-in-l stepped on it. as he put his weight on it, she had to remove her fingers very quickly so they would not get crushed. this created a clam shell effect and the turkey flew out from between the boards and slid on the floor into the opposite wall! none of us could stop laughing, and it is still the single most retold TD story after 15 or 20 years.

              1. I made some nasty sweet potatoe casserole in my crockpot last year. It was some low-fat recipe with chipotles or something. Needless to say, my husband was not impressed :)

                1. A few years ago, we went to my in-laws for Thanksgiving. My MIL is not a great cook, mostly because she doesn't entertain a lot, although she actually makes an okay turkey. But the problem was when she put the dinner rolls on the very bottom rack in the oven and forgot about them. Smoke started pouring out, and then there were the flames. All was resolved pretty quickly but then there were the charred rolls...she was more embarrased than anything.

                  Then last year I made Thanksgiving. I have made Barefoot Contessa's Parmesan Smashed Potatoes so many times and they've always come out great. Well last year I decided to use that recipe as a basis, but use roasted garlic and cut out the parmesan cheese. I also decided to use Yukon Golds instead of the trustworthy Red Potatoes that I always used. Not exactly sure what happened, but the potatoes got waterlogged and the mashed potatoes were like soup. They tasted okay, if you drank them through a straw. I was so upset.

                  But I learned a valuable lesson...never will I make up a recipe when serving to company on a holiday.

                  1. my first year in san francisco, my roommate and i invited a ton of people over. we were very excited to entertain all our new friends, and when i was preparing the turkey i noted that somehow, when trussed, the bird resembled the face of a cow (don't ask). we named it Io or Europa or some sort of mythical cow-related name. spent the whole day cooking and at about the time the stupid bird was supposed to be finished, it wasn't. pink. waited some more. still pink. everyone was there, all the rest of the food was finished. still pink. everyone is starving. i pull the bird out and inspect it, and there are still deep rose juices flowing everywhere. it wouldn't cook. my roommate looked at me and said, "well...it SMELLS good."

                    my eyeballs starting vibrating in their sockets, i was so angry. i slammed the bird into the oven and stormed out of the house to pace by myself (bad form. i was only 23). i returned thirty minutes later and everyone enjoyed a lovely dinner, minus turkey, with everyone walking on eggshells around me.

                    the next day i told the bird that we were divorced because she was a faithless monster, and i ripped chunks from the carcass and dipped them in leftover buttermilk and a seasoned cornmeal mix, and deep fried them. they were the most delicious turkey strips i've ever had. my roommate agreed. i've never named a turkey again and our landlord fixed our oven soon after.

                    1. Sliced the tip of my thumb off on a mandolin one year. Whatever I was slicing kept rolling off the little holder, and I only needed two or three more slices, so I held it in my hand. Mistake.

                      1. One from childhood: Fritz the Weimaraner got the turkey, so we got pizza.
                        One from my second thanksgiving with my in-laws. Since the meal the year before was so bad I had to insist the my wife and I cook. This had the unfortunate effect of freeing up my excessively nervous mother in law's time, which she occupied by asking me every five minutes when the bird would be done and if it was going to be dry. Someone brought a sound activated toy gorilla that played the Macarena when anyone made a peep, opened a can of soda or closed the fridge. Nephew #1 ate his body weight in sugar and did an stunning impersonation of Linda Blair and brother in law # 2 held an evening long petition for a Russian mail order bride. We refer to it as the David Mamet Thanksgiving.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chilihead

                          oh my god. i am laughing so hard i just spit coffee on the keyboard. thanks chilihead!

                        2. This may have been Thanksgiving, or it may have been Christmas, but my dad was at the helm, and God bless him but sometimes he just has no idea. His thinking was that the (sliced) sweet potatoes could go in the oven after the bird came out, and would be ready in, oh, 15 minutes or so. I think the oven had been turned to warm, no less.

                          So the darn things were still hard, which was somehow my fault (as his assistant/scapegoat). OK, they go into the microwave, as everything else is on the table. They soften, and what does the good man have to put on top? Marshmallows. The mini ones. The multi-colored, multi-flavored mini ones that taste like sweet tarts.

                          I love sweet potatoes, but there was no saving these.

                          He'd also beat the potatoes in the mixer for five minutes, but Yukon Golds must hold up better to that abuse.

                          1. The huge blistering steam burn that I aquired on my arm when taking the lid of my roasting pan. But the bird turned out great!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: FoodChic

                              I have a favorite sweet potato dish made with kahlua that my 3 sons-in-law and I love but the rest of the family doesn't. Since I trust CI, this year I decided to try their lemon and bourbon sweet potatoes. I should have drunk the bourbon instead. When I took it out of the oven after 50 mins, I tasted and it was way too lemony to the point of being inedible. I grabbed the Kahlua and sprinkled some over the top. Then I grabbed TJ's grade B maple syrup and pour a few ripples over the top. Then I added the pecan topping and returned it to the oven. This dish was the hit of the dinner and everyone wants the recipe. One guest went back for seconds that only included a plate of sweet potatoes. OK, so it didn't turn out to be a disaster. How about the guest who brought stuffed mushrooms that had to be broiled at the last moment while she was off drinking wine with her boyfriend. Do you think that I worried that the top charred black?

                            2. When my cranberry muffins turned out like biscotti....The 'product' didn't make it to the dinner table. No need to add, I am not a baker....

                              1. One year I was ready to make gravy and poured everything from roasting pan into a very big glass Pyrex measuring cup. I did not know it would crack. Hot greasy juices ran down onto my floor and feet -- good thing I was wearing Tevas -- easy to clean. No scars, anyway but no great gravy that year. Now, I would only pour it into plastic.

                                1. Another ill-timed plumbing disaster story. This must have occurred pre-1970, as that's the year that my folks remodeled the house and added a second bathroom:

                                  I used the bathroom while dinner was being prepped and noticed what looked like little pieces of potato peels and carrot scrapings in the bathtub, burbling out of the drain. At age 9 or 10, I'd never food coming out of a bathroom drain, nor did I understand that because that drain is lower than the kitchen sink, any back-ups would end up there. Either mom or dad had a fast, easy fix: pull the shower curtain shut. I thought I was related to a genius.

                                  Next day, a plumber came to snake the drain (also the first time I'd seen a plumbing snake) and found that the roots of one of the trees in the front yard had grown into the pipe that connected our house to the main in the street.

                                  1. Dating my now husand; first or second time at the not-in-laws, but will-become-inlaws. His Dad has a TD birthday so we bring a couple dozen oysters. I offer to open. (Have I opened before? No. Do I think I can. Yes.) I get asked if I need a towel and blithely offer, "oh no, I'll do this." First or second oyster, the knife slips, slashes into the base of my thumb, well, let's say Stephen King experience. I run away pretending all is OK. Not.
                                    OK, to the ER, the meal's on hold.

                                    An hour later, a tetanus shot and 10 stitches later, I'm laying on their couch, being fed an oyster by my FIL who opened all the oysters with a hammer.