15 Common, Last-Minute Thanksgiving Problems and How to Solve Them

updated Jul 30, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

Often the trickiest part of hosting and cooking Thanksgiving dinner isn’t the major planning and prep you tackle in the weeks leading up to the year’s most delicious holiday — it’s all those big and small snafus that pop up at the last minute. Don’t sweat it, though! You’ve got this. And to make sure, we’re here to help.

From cracked pie crust and lumpy gravy to a frozen-solid turkey, here are the best solutions to 15 very common, last-minute Thanksgiving problems.

Buying and Cooking the Turkey

Having turkey troubles? Let us help.

Didn’t order a turkey and there are no whole birds available.

The good news is that roasting a whole turkey is just one way to approach Thanksgiving dinner. Consider buying just the parts, like a turkey breast if you’re into white meat or legs if you prefer the fattier and more flavorful dark meat. Whole roast chicken or honey-glazed ham also make good alternatives, as does a Thanksgiving-inspired lasagna or a stuffed pumpkin.

The turkey is still frozen.

If come Thanksgiving morning your turkey is still frozen, do not fear! You can start roasting the turkey even if it’s still partially or fully frozen, and it’s perfectly safe. You will need to plan for some extra cook time though, as fully frozen turkey will take about 50 percent longer to cook than normal.

You realized you don’t have a roasting rack.

A roasting rack helps lift the turkey away from direct heat of the pan and allows hot air to circulate underneath. The meat cooks more evenly and tends to develop a crispier skin. If it turns out you don’t have one, try one of our favorite DIY solutions, like using crumpled aluminum foil, a wire cooling rack, or chopped potatoes and onions.

Try these DIY solutions: What to Do If You Don’t Have a Roasting Rack on Thanksgiving

You also don’t have a roasting pan.

While a roasting pan is the ideal vessel for roasting a turkey, it’s hardly the only option. If there’s no time to run to the store for a foil pan, consider using a broiler pan, wok, or any other extra-large skillet or baking dish.

The skin is starting to look burnt.

If the skin is starting to look toasty but the turkey still has a while left to cook, tent the bird with a protective layer of foil.

You’re not sure how to check the temperature on the turkey.

The best way to check the temperature of a turkey to to stick an instant-read thermometer in the meatiest part of the thigh. This is a part of the turkey that cooks the slowest and is also one of the thickest. When the internal temperature registers a steady 165°F in the thigh, your turkey is done.

Questions About the Sides

You only have soft, freshly baked bread for the stuffing.

Stale, dried-out bread makes the best stuffing. If you didn’t have the time to let it sit out for a day or two before Thanksgiving to become stale, you can cube it and toast over a low heat in the oven until dry.

This tip makes it even faster: The Fastest Way to Cut Bread for Stuffing

The gravy is lumpy.

It’s actually really easy to work those pesky lumps out of the gravy, and there are a few different methods that work. Go for the manual approach by pushing it through a fine mesh strainer, use an immersion blender, or give it a whirl in a standard blender or food processor.

The gravy tastes bland.

When gravy tastes flat, something savory or a splash of something acidic will do the trick to lift and brighten the flavor. Whisking in another pinch of salt, Worcestershire sauce, or umami-rich soy sauce or miso paste can help, as can a splash of apple cider vinegar.

The Easiest Thanksgiving Centerpiece I’ve Ever Made (Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Setting the Table and Serving Dinner

You forget all about a centerpiece for the dinner table.

So, you put all your energy into planning and cooking dinner and you realized you don’t have a centerpiece or any decorations for the table. Here is your quick solution:

mini pumpkins

Get inspired:

Mini Pumpkins Are the Easiest Thanksgiving Table Decoration

You don’t actually own a gravy boat.

Lucky for you there is no rule that states gravy must be served in a gravy boat. There are tons of other options that work just as well. Instead use a spouted measuring cup, creamers, or a small pitcher.

You don’t have enough serving platters.

Serving platters have a way of getting filled up fast when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. If you don’t have enough, there are plenty of alternatives in your kitchen that will get the job done. All you need is a flat surface and some creativity. Instead, reach for a cutting board, baking sheet, skillet, or cake stand.

Dessert Problems and Quick Fixes

Your pie dough cracks every time you roll it.

If the dough cracks when you first start rolling, let it stand for one minute to warm slightly before rolling again.

Our go-to method: How To Make Flaky Pie Crust

The top of the pumpkin pie cracked.

It feels nothing short of devastating to pull your pumpkin pie from the oven on Thanksgiving morning only to see a wide crack across the top. But there’s a quick fix for that: The simplest solution is to hide it with whipped cream or meringue, Greek yogurt, streusel, or even cranberry sauce.

You over-whipped the whipped cream.

As long as you haven’t whipped the cream into butter yet, there’s an easy fix. Just whisk in a little more cream and everything will smooth back out.