6 Last-Minute Thanksgiving Dilemmas (and How to Solve Them)

It's hours before Thanksgiving dinner and you just realized that you forgot to cook a side dish...defrost the turkey...prepare the appetizer! Don't fret, the Clever Cookstr has your easy solutions for 6 common last-minute mistakes that can save the day.

Kara Rota
4-minute read
Episode #27

It's the day before Thanksgiving and I’m sure many of you already have your pies cooling on the counter, your stuffing and vegetables pre-made and ready to cook, your turkey all set for roasting, and time to spare.

But if you’re anything like me, though, you might be running around like mad trying to tie up loose ends and make sure the meal gets on the table. Today, we’re doing to talk about 6 common last-minute Thanksgiving dinner mistakes and easy solutions that can save the day:

Thanksgiving Dilemma #1: I didn't reserve a turkey and now there are none to be had in stores!

Clever Cookstr's Solution: Don't panic. Let's take a deep breath and remember what this holiday is about: a delicious, comforting meal shared with friends and family. And gratitude.

So be grateful that there are so many other options: You could roast some gorgeous Cornish hens, or even a duck - or, of course, a chicken! Or you could buy a turkey breast and thighs to roast and serve. A bone-in turkey breast can be as impressive as the entire bird and you'll still get to carve it. Whatever you do, don't buy a frozen bird at this point. Which brings us to our next Thanksgiving dilemma...

Thanksgiving Dilemma #2: I bought a frozen turkey, but didn't defrost it.

Clever Cookstr's Solution: For years, this has been the most common question called into the Butterball hotline: When and how do I thaw a turkey...and what do I do if it's too late? A frozen turkey can take 4-5 days to defrost in the fridge, so if your turkey's frozen at this point, it's time for plan B.

A frozen turkey thaws at a half hour per pound in a cold water bath, so if you have time, make sure your turkey is sealed in a waterproof bag and submerge it in a sink full of cold water. Change the water regularly to keep it cold.

If you don't have time to thaw it whole, thaw your turkey in pieces. Remove the giblet bag as soon as you can to speed up the defrosting. When it's starting to thaw enough, use a cleaver to butterfly the turkey, cut off the legs and thighs, and chop them into pieces with a cleaver. You'll need to cut through the bones. The pieces will thaw and roast much more quickly.

Never try to thaw a turkey at room temperature or in warm water -  it's a recipe for bacteria growth, which is a much bigger dilemma.

Thanksgiving Dilemma #3: I forgot to plan a vegetable for the menu.

Clever Cookstr's Solution: This is a comparatively easy one! All of those frozen green peas, green beans, pearl onions, spinach, or Brussels sprouts hanging out in the back of your freezer are about to seriously step up to the plate. 

Either brown them in butter and add chopped fresh herbs and toasted chopped nuts, or make a quick béchamel sauce. Adding caramelized onions never hurt anyone, either. These are all stovetop ideas, so you won’t be giving up oven space!

Thanksgiving Dilemma #4: I ran out of butter, sugar, milk, or another staple and don't have time to go to the store....


About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.