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With out-of-town guests, high expectations, and crazy amounts of food, Thanksgiving dinner is prime time for kitchen fails. But just because you made a few mistakes last year doesn't mean you should give up and order Chinese (or let your mother in law host) this year. I sat down with the other food editors and brainstormed all the most common Thanksgiving mistakes, and then wrote you a guide on how to avoid them. You can thank us at the dinner table.
10 Most Common Thanksgiving Mistakes
Not reading the recipes first
This classic mistake results in a lot of "Oops, I don't have that pan" or "oops, I didn't know it needed to brine overnight." Avoid these disasters by reading the recipes! Make sure you have the dishes needed and ample time to get things done.
Picking dishes that all require last-minute preparation...
When designing the feast, figure out how it's going to get put together and on the table at the same time. Know what can be done ahead, what can be rewarmed in the oven while the turkey rests, etc.
...Or that all need to be in the oven at the same time
Choose recipes that require different preparation and can be served at different temperatures; oven versus stovetop and hot versus room temp.
Not having all of the serving dishes and utensils needed
Reading the recipes will help you figure out what you might need, but you can always rearrange the dishes you have to fit with the right recipe. If you are short, borrow from friends and family.
Undercooking the turkey
Rely on internal temperatures rather than cooking time to determine when your bird is done. Don't even think about roasting a turkey without a thermometer, and see our Thanksgiving Toolbox for other essential tools.
Overcooking the turkey
Start checking if it's done about 1/2 hour before the recipe says it will be. But make it fast! The more you open the door, the more heat the oven will lose, making roasting time longer. OR, use a probe thermometer that stays in the turkey while it roasts, with an alarm that goes off when it's ready.
Making lumpy mashed potatoes
Buy a potato ricer! It's the best guarantee for a silky, lump-free mash. Follow our recipe to achieve perfect, fluffy mashed potatoes.
Not serving hors d'oeuvres
Even if you've been tasting (read: snacking) all day as you cook, your guests haven't. Put out something light, like cured salmon and crisps, to keep them hungry--but not ravenous--for the big meal.
Dishing out cold gravy
You can keep your gravy at serving temperature indefinitely by keeping it in a pot of barely simmering water that comes halfway up the sides of the gravy boat (although if you're using grandma's china, you might want to use a ceramic bowl).
Setting the table at the last minute
Set the table one day ahead. You can even put Post-It's on serving dishes that say what recipe will go with which platter or bowl.
My personal problem? Leaving one dish in the refrigerator and forgetting to serve it! At least it lets everyone have something new on Friday to enjoy along with the leftovers. Those labeled dishes really help here!
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SUPPER CLUB PICK
My after-school snack was a sacred ritual. I sat on the carpet in my parents' bedroom at a low table, the television turned to "I Dream of Jeannie," and ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich cut into neat squares. I wasn't fussy about crusts. I just loved the sticky pairing of creamy peanut butter with syrupy golden sweetness drizzled from a honey bear in diagonals across the soft white bread. Nothing else--save for maybe apples and peanut butter in a pinch--could have made for as sweet an