Martha Stewart’s First Thanksgiving Was a Complete Disaster

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: Sterling Munksgard)

The first year my sister and her husband tried to cook the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, her mother-in-law made a whole spare bird, just in case. The turkey was fine, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. And Thanksgiving disasters can happen to anybody — especially if it’s their first time hosting. Even Martha Stewart, the woman who does everything beautifully, burned the turkey to a crisp and ruined her own Thanksgiving dinner the first time she hosted.

Martha Stewart told The Daily Mail that she hosted her first Thanksgiving more than 50 years ago. She was a young newlywed, and she had boldly decided that it was her turn to host Thanksgiving dinner for the entire family. She was looking to knock people’s socks off.

Martha Stewart was not yet the lifestyle queen and media mogul she is today, but she still wanted everything to be perfect. She started with a 30-pound turkey from a local turkey farm and spent the night before Thanksgiving baking pies from scratch, preparing the stuffing, and getting all the vegetable dishes started. She was ready to go. It was a meal even her future self would have been proud of.

Then she made a critical error.

Stewart woke up at 3 a.m. to stuff the turkey and put it in the oven so it would be golden-brown and delicious just in time for Thanksgiving dinner at 1 p.m., when her family traditionally celebrated. She stuffed the turkey and hoisted the whole 30-pound raw bird into her oven by 3:45 a.m. Pleased with herself for managing to get that enormous turkey into the oven by herself, Stewart went back to bed.

A few hours later, she awoke to find her house full of thick, black smoke. Fortunately the house was not actually on fire, but the turkey was burned to a crisp. Stewart had turned the oven to 500°F to preheat it and then forgotten to turn it back down to 325°F after she put the turkey in. After a few hours at 500°F, the turkey looked like a 30-pound piece of charcoal.

Stewart cried in the car as they rushed back to the turkey farm. She was devastated by the idea of everyone showing up to find a Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey. Fortunately, the farm had one single, half-frozen, 30-pound turkey left. Another customer had ordered it and never picked it up.

She rushed the turkey home and started giving it a bath under warm water to thaw it. Then she yanked all the stuffing out of her burned turkey, shoved it into the new turkey, and got the whole thing into the oven. Still, hours had been lost, and her family had been expecting to eat at 1 p.m.

The new turkey eventually emerged from the oven, glistening, golden, and cooked to perfection, at 7 p.m., six hours late.

It’s a story Martha Stewart can laugh about now, but it must have been deeply embarrassing at the time. Still, it’s proof that disasters can happen to anybody. So if you burn the pie or forget to turn on the oven, just remember that the holiday is about family and friendship.

And if anyone gives you trouble, remind them that even Martha Stewart burned the heck out of her Thanksgiving turkey. If something goes wrong, you’ll be in good company.