Thanksgiving dinner is the big one in the United States. There are so many expectations and hopes surrounding this meal, and lots of pressure on the cook. And things will invariably go wrong. I think it's something to do with entropy. At any rate, turn to this collection of solutions to the most common problems about Thanksgiving dinner. And you'll be prepared to deal with anything! Be sure to check out the rest of my Thanksgiving Tips, Tricks, and Recipes!

My-Favorite-Thanksgiving-Turkey.jpg - Linda Larsen
My Favorite Thanksgiving Turkey. Linda Larsen

1.  Dry Turkey

A dry turkey is an overcooked turkey. There's no way to reverse that process, but you can still serve moist meat. The breast is most likely to be dry, since it has very little fat. The dark meat should be fine no matter what.

So evenly slice the turkey breast, and place the slices, in a single layer, in a large shallow pan. Slowly pour some chicken or turkey broth or stock over the slices, moistening them thoroughly. Cover the pan with foil and place in a 250 degrees F oven for 10-15 minutes until the meat is hot. You can carve the rest of the bird while the breast slices are in the oven.

As long as the meat is warm, it will be moist. The meat will dry out when it cools down, so serve lots of gravy on the side.

Brine the turkey next year or cook one from the frozen state! More »

2.  Family Only Likes Dark or White Meat

If your family likes white meat, cook two or three turkey breasts instead of the whole bird. The breast is easier to thaw, easier to handle, and easier to cook. In fact, you could cook the breast a couple of different ways: roast one, and cook another boneless breast in the slow cooker.

If dark meat is the star in your household, roast turkey legs and thighs and cook thestuffing in the crockpot.

The easiest way to accommodate one preference or another is to roast turkey partsinstead of a whole bird. You can choose one breast and four drumsticks, two breasts, two thighs and two drumsticks, or any other combination! More »

Ice-Cream-Tartlets.jpg - Linda Larsen
Ice Cream Tartlets. Linda Larsen

3.  No Time to Make Dessert

Dessert is not usually something I forget. But it does happen. Luckily, many grocery stores are open on Thanksgiving day, at least until noon, so you can send someone out to grab some ice cream and little graham cracker shells to make Ice Cream Tartlets.

Or make Instant Apple Croustade, which is beautiful, festive, and very easy.

Or just buy a premade pecan pie, drizzle it with melted chocolate, and serve with homemade whipped cream. A bakery pumpkin pie can be made fancier by crushing up some brittle or toffee and sprinkling it over the top. Then add some whipped cream and drizzle caramel sauce over the whole thing.

And for a sophisticated touch, put out some cheeses and fresh fruit, along with whole nuts for a refreshing change of pace. More »

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Cook-Turkey-From-Frozen-Step-1.jpg - Linda Larsen
Cook Turkey From Frozen Figure 1. Linda Larsen

4.  Turkey Doesn't Thaw in Time

You can't cook a turkey partially frozen, since the thawed part will dry out before the frozen part is done. And you run the risk of serving underdone turkey, which is never a good idea. NEVER thaw it on the counter.

Clear out your sink, plug it, then place the partially thawed turkey in the sink. Run cold water into the sink until the turkey is covered, or as covered as you can get it, given the depth of your sink. Every 15 minutes, drain out the water, plug the sink again, and add more cold water.

The turkey will thaw in an hour or two. Pat it dry and continue with your recipe.

For this Thanksgiving, buy your frozen turkey four to five days ahead of time. It takes 24 hours to thaw for every five pounds!

Next year, cook the turkey frozen! More »

My-Mothers-Turkey-Gravy.jpg - Linda Larsen
My Mother's Turkey Gravy. Linda Larsen

5.  Lumpy or Flavorless Gravy

Lumpy gravy is caused by not dissolving the flour or cornstarch before adding to the hot drippings or hot liquid.

Start by beating the gravy with a whisk. Sometimes this will help break up the lumps so they will dissolve into the gravy.

If that doesn't work, add more liquid to the gravy and beat it will to thin it out a bit. Then strain it. Pour the gravy into the strainer set over a clean pot. You'll probably need to stir the gravy so it goes through the strainer more quickly. Then reheat the gravy in the new pot.

Salt is the key to the best gravy. If your gravy doesn't have a lot of flavor, add salt, a pinch at a time, and stir for a few seconds. Keep tasting. When you hit the right amount, the flavor will bloom. Or add some jarred gravy. More »

6.  Hungry People Crowd into Kitchen

There are two ways to deal with kitchen-crowders. One is to put some of them to work! They can finish setting the table, help you by dishing up recipes, or work on starting clean-up so after dinner there isn't a huge mountain of work. Some could help make last minute appetizers. This is where having a well stocked pantrycomes in handy.

But if you have a small kitchen, or lots of people in the kitchen make you nervous, have some appetizers ready and waiting to go. And serve them in another room so people get out from underfoot!

And keep kids and pets out of the kitchen in any situation. They can really get underfoot and cause safety issues More »

Thermapen - Thermapen
Thermapen. Thermapen

7.  Turkey Won't Get to 165 Degrees!

This is most likely a problem with your thermometer. If the turkey isn't registering 160 to 165 degrees F in the breast meat and 175 to 180 degrees in the thigh or leg, check your thermometer.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, then remove it from the heat and stick the probe in the water. It should register right around 212 degrees F. If it's lower, and many thermometers are off by a few degrees, you'll know that your turkey is hotter than you thought.

In fact, it's a good idea to check your thermometer before you need it. I myself use aThermapen from Thermoworks; it's expensive but completely accurate.

My-Family-s-Thanksgiving-Dinner-Menu.jpg -

8.  Can't Get Things Done at the Same Time

Planning is really the key to any big endeavor, whether it's writing a book or planning a dinner party. Read through these instructions, from inviting people to planning the menu to making lists to the timetable of cooking.

It will help if you plan the meal so only one or two things are last minute, and everything else is made ahead of time.

And even if things aren't done at the same time, don't worry about it. You can always reheat something in the microwave, or on the stovetop. And even if you forget something in the fridge or freezer, it doesn't really matter. The main point of this celebration is gathering together, not serving the perfect meal. If you're relaxed and happy, everyone else will be too. More »

9.  Small Oven

If your oven is too small to cook a whole turkey, cook the turkey in parts. You can choose how many to cook - cook just a breast and two thighs for a gathering of four to six, or more for more people.

If you can fit a whole bird in the oven, roast the vegetables around the turkey to take care of one more dish. Then use your crockpot to cook the stuffing, other side dishes, or to make the potatoes or keep them warm. More »

10.  Picky Eaters or Those with Allergies

I find it helpful to make one or two dishes that are very plain, like a simple green salad with a choice of dressings, plain dinner rolls, or some roasted vegetables. That way someone always has something to eat.

It's always a good idea, whenever inviting anyone to your home for a meal, to ask if there are any food allergies, special likes or dislikes, or foods someone can't or won't eat. Make a note of these so you remember next time.

And if someone doesn't like the food, it's their responsibility to keep it quiet. You have worked hard, opening up your home and heart to others. So don't take it too hard if the meal is criticized. This can, after all, be a learning opportunity for kids - on how to not behave at a dinner party!