3. The trouble with stuffing
Problem: It seems to happen every year: my turkey is fully cooked, but when I stick my instant-read thermometer into the stuffing, it reads lower than 165°F, the safe temperature for stuffing cooked in a bird.
Quick fix: This isn’t as big a problem as it might seem. To remedy the situation, simply take the turkey out of the oven, scoop the stuffing into a baking dish, and return the stuffing to the oven to bake while the turkey rests before carving.
Avoiding the problem: To prevent this scenario next year, here are a couple tips: If you’ve made your stuffing in advance, let it come to room temperature before stuffing the bird. Pack the stuffing loosely -- tightly packed stuffing won’t cook through easily -- leaving enough room to fit your hand in the bird. Or take our test kitchen manager’s advice and don’t cook the stuffing in the turkey at all; give it its own baking dish, instead, and you’ll get lots of nice crisp topping as as bonus.
4. Timing dilemmas!
Problem: I’ve got one oven, so how on earth am I supposed to get a turkey and all the trimmings to the table, warm and delicious, at the same time? My mother always pulls it off, but when I try keep things warm until dinner time, something inevitably winds up overdone.
Avoiding the problem: This is probably the most common Thanksgiving complaint of all. Fortunately, it’s easily solved. The key to pulling together any big feast is having a strategy and doing as much of the cooking ahead as possible. Start by reading through your recipes and looking for do-ahead components -- and then sit down and write yourself a timeline. Here is a sample menu and timeline to get you started. Also, make sure to serve nice hot gravy; it’s our favorite trick for making lukewarm potatoes, stuffing, and turkey taste warm and wonderful.
5. Burned pan drippings
Problem: Everything on the bottom of my roasting pan burned, so now I have no delicious browned bits for gravy. Is there any way out of this mess?
Quick fix: Don’t worry. You can still make gravy. Pluck a couple tablespoons worth of nicely browned bits of skin and meat from the underside of the turkey, chop finely, and in a clean skillet, sauté them in bacon fat or butter with minced onion and fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, and sage. When the aromatics are well browned and soft, sprinkle flour into the pan and cook the roux until golden; slowly add your broth, and cook, stirring, until the gravy is the thickness you desire.
Avoiding the problem: Drippings usually won't burn in a heavy-based roasting pan that's just large enough to hold the turkey. If your pan is too big or too flimsy, coarsely chop an onion or two and sprinkle it around the turkey in the pan to act as a heat absorber. If you need to do this, leave the onion out of your homemade broth (if making) because the pan drippings will be plenty oniony.