11 ways to save Thanksgiving dinner when everything is going wrong

Whether you’re hosting your first Friendsgiving or planning a feast for your entire family, prepping and cooking Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful. And try as you might, something is bound to go wrong because #life. But lucky for you, we found solutions to the most common Thanksgiving disasters so you can save the day and the dinner.

Disaster: You got so caught up in the parade (or partying the night before) that you forgot to take the turkey out of the freezer.

Solution: Time to give your bird a bath. “If your bird fits, place it in the sink and cover with cool water — never warm,” says Michael A. Young, executive chef at Sheraton Kauai Resort in Hawaii. “Change the water every 15 minutes to keep bacteria from building up.” If the turkey is solid as a rock, you’ll need to place it in a clean bucket and run it under cool water in the tub. A few hours later, you should be all set.

Disaster: Taking the Turkey out of the freezer wasn’t the problem, remembering to take it out of the oven was.

Solution: When life gives you burnt turkey, turn it into turkey stew, says celebrity party planner Marcy Blum: “If a recipe is ruined, don’t panic! Take a breath and see if there is any way to give it another life as a different dish. For example, if the turkey is dreadfully overcooked, make it into a Southern-style turkey stew. If the chocolate mousse won’t set, add rum and serve it over ice cream!”


Disaster: You ran out of time to make homemade mashed potatoes or stuffing.

Solution: There’s no shame in store-bought. Keep a stash of simple side dishes like instant mashed potatoes or stuffing in your pantry in case of emergency, says Remi Silva, co-founder of Sunday Meal Prepper. Forgot to pick them up at the store? Use an app like Instacart to save the day.

Disaster: After gabbing with your guests, you realize you didn’t chill the wine.

Solution: Wrap a damp paper towel around the wine bottle and set it in the freezer for 10 minutes, says Meranda Adams, an editor with Angie’s List.

Disaster: The top wasn’t screwed on tight enough and you accidentally added too much salt to the gravy.

Solution: Add a peeled, whole potato for 10 to 15 minutes to absorb the excess salt. No one will ever notice.


Disaster: It’s a few minutes until dinner time and the turkey is too dry.

Solution: Pour chicken or turkey stock over the slices of turkey and heat it for a few minutes in the oven, recommends Felicia Ramos-Peters of Get Holiday Happy. You can also try the same trick for stuffing that’s dry as well.

Disaster: You followed the recipe, but the gravy is still lumpy.

Solution: Just keep whisking, says Kim Brauer, chef at Marx Foods in Seattle: “If that’s not doing anything, push the gravy through a fine mesh strainer with a rubber spatula to break up the lumps. And if that fails, serve more wine. No one will notice.”

Disaster: Your aunt got carried away reenacting that crazy story from vacation and knocked over a few glasses.

Solution: Sweep up as much of the glass as you can with a dustpan and brush. “Then, use slices of bread to clean up any little shards that may be lingering,” says Jacqueline Y., one of TaskRabbit’s elite cleaners in NYC. “Wrap the bread in newspaper and toss it.”


Disaster: You may have, ahem, burned a few dishes and now the house smells like smoke.

Solution: “Open windows for a minute and boil 2 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and cloves to create the smells of a successful home chef,” says Ann Butler, owner of Edible Education.

Disaster: You went a little overboard with the side dishes and now you don’t have enough oven space to reheat them all.

Solution: “Put the potato side dishes in aluminum pans and warm them on a grill over low heat,” says Kit Graham of The Kittchen. Don’t forget to stir periodically.

Disaster: You made a list and checked it twice, but unexpected guests are bound to show up for dinner.

Solution: Rely on UberEats to deliver last-minute, ready-made items to your door in about 30 minutes. With dishes such as truffle stuffing, green beans with bacon, and rosemary caramel apple crisp, you won’t have to lift a finger … other than to order, of course.

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