Thanksgiving Horror Stories

By Lauren Salkeld, Epicurious.com

No matter how prepared or experienced you are, even the most skilled hosts sometimes run into trouble on Turkey Day. Whether it's a non-functioning oven; a burnt, raw, or frozen turkey; or surprise vegan guests, the size of the annual feast and the strong feelings of many family members and friends means there's plenty of room for mistakes and lots of expectations to meet (or, as the case may be, not meet).

With this in mind, a few weeks ago, we asked our Facebook fans to share their Thanksgiving horror stories, and at last count, we had 70 responses. Here you'll find the highlights (which include a surprising number of stories involving dogs) and hopefully learn a thing or two. The overwhelming conclusion is this: You're not alone; just about everybody has a disaster in his or her Thanksgiving past.

Related: 5 Common Mistakes When Planning Thanksgiving Menus

Klutzy in the Kitchen
Andrea Lundgren: I worked really hard on a pumpkin cheesecake (fresh pumpkin even). My hubby went to get it out of the fridge to serve our guests, and he tipped the tray. It slid right off and SPLAT! on the floor.

Beth Eileen Walker-Cavalli: My in laws were having the first Thanksgiving where all their children were married and the spouses were all together at their home. (Very Big deal) so they thought to do the carving at the big table. Sadly the table was not big enough, so they opted to carve on a small side table from the garage. Upon cutting into the bird, my father in law slipped and the whole bird fell onto the dining room carpet!

Hungry Pets
Patricia McNeil Germer-Coolidge: One year we didn't have room in the fridge for the thawed turkey, so my mom put it outside in the cold Colorado air...up "too high" for the German shepherd to reach...Not!! I think we had roast beef that year!

Jeff Fitzgerald: Thanksgiving Day, had just got the turkey out of the fridge to begin preparation when I'm called out of the kitchen for a second. When I return, our dogs had pulled the raw turkey off the counter and had already managed to get both of the drumsticks off. Thinking quickly, I cleaned the remainder off, removed the breast, and turned it into a roulade that everyone thought was just fine.

Cynthia Love: I'm Australian and married an American. My first year of marriage I did Thanksgiving - the full works. In the middle of the meal my cat strolled into the dining room with a live rat in his mouth.... and released it. All hell broke loose.

Colleen DeBoer Mundwiler: When we had a puppy that was only 3 months old, she got into the pecan pie and ate the middle out of the pie. Funny - now yes, then not so much. The funniest part is my mother-in-law felt so bad, she made a small batch of filling and added it to the "puppy pie."

Gravy Gone Awry
Laura Parker: Dad was a gravy champion, best in our family. He loved pepper, and one year took the shaker top off so it would be easier to get more. Except he forgot he had, and ended up dumping a whole jar of pepper in the gravy! Nobody ever asked him to make the gravy again.

Sue Foster: A few years ago it was my sister's job to make the gravy while I carved the turkey and dished up the side dishes...she kept saying "the gravy isn't thickening"...so I kept telling her to add more flour...the product that arrived on my table had the consistency of jello! Now I make the gravy!!!

When Weather Strikes
Lisa Redmond: Many years ago I prepared a dinner for 10. Then we got an unexpected 3-foot snowstorm. None of the family could get to us. But I served the dinner to my husband at the dinner table with centerpiece, turkey etc...He looks so funny in pictures, sitting at the table with all that food! Family showed a couple of days later for hot turkery sandwiches and leftovers.

Barbara Maclay Cameron: We once planned to eat Thanksgiving dinner out at a restaurant (unusual for us), but a snowstorm hit and we couldn't leave the house. We ate Stouffer's frozen French bread pizzas (remember those?) for Thanksgiving dinner!

See also: Our Complete Guide to Making Perfect Pies

Real Danger
Patti Davidson: A number of years ago my sister and I were preparing dinner for both our families and extended family at her house. The day before Thanksgiving my sister had a large band-aid on her finger. We had a huge turkey to stuff and it took both of us to accomplish it. When it was all done and tied up and in the roaster ready to go in the oven my sister looked down and said, "Oh my god...my band-aid is gone". Well, we were both horrified and then we got the giggles about someone finding it in their stuffing. Should me make it a prize like the baby in a king cake? We just couldn't risk it so we totally undressed the bird and combed through every piece of stuffing. We found nothing! So we stuffed it back up and when we lifted the roaster to put it in the oven, there it was! Stuck to the BOTTOM of the roaster the ENTIRE time! We still laugh about it all the time!

Chip Fowler: My niece was in the kitchen garnishing the turkey on the platter for presentation. Her husband stood near her opening a bottle of champagne. The cork flew into the air and hit the overhead lights, which shattered and rained shards of glass all over the turkey.

Barb Wilkins: 1/2 hour left to go on the turkey and we hear on the news that Safeway has a turkey recall because someone called in a threat they poisoned all the birds. Took the bird back, fully stuffed, told the guys it needed 30 more minutes if they wanted it, and started all over again. At least the Safeway guys got a thanksgiving dinner at work.

Evelyn S. Hlabse: We were invited by a family member for Thanksgiving dinner and she didn't wash the turkey out before stuffing it. The four of us ended up in the ER because of food poisoning.

The Classics
Virginia Shea: Back in college, a billion years ago, a housemate and I cooked early Thanksgiving dinner for our 20-person co-op. My housemate had invited over a guy she wanted to impress & asked him to carve the turkey. He cut off the first slice and pulled out the wax-paper bag of giblets! Ew. We ate the turkey anyway and it was fine. But, at least as far as I know, my housemate & the guy never got together.

Amy Van Dreumel-Hammer: Thoroughly check the turkeys cavity, because sometimes there are "2" bags of gizzards, instead of the usual "1."

Francie Crawford Todd: I was invited home with my college roommate for Thanksgiving dinner. Her very proper mom made a fabulous meal topped off with pumpkin pie. She heaped whipped cream on each slice and waited for comments. Finally her husband mentioned that it tasted 'off'. She broke down and confessed she had forgotten the sugar but had hoped the whipped cream would save it. It didn't.

Heather Ireland: Woke up super early one Thanksgiving morning to get the turkey started. Turned the oven on to pre-heat and started making coffee and other things. Next thing I know my oven is on FIRE! My heating element was completely destroyed. I was beyond upset as I had about 10 family members coming over for dinner. Hubby and I ended up going back to the store and buying enough steak for everyone and grilled out. It worked out in the end but is sure wasn't what I planned!

Polly Ferguson: I have double ovens...one for the turkey...one for the side dishes (that I had prepared weeks and days before) that needed reheating. I pride myself on my organizational skills! I forgot to turn on the oven for the turkey...

Brianne DeRosa: My mother-in-law had one a few years back! She purchased what she thought was a fresh turkey, but she didn't read carefully--it was "previously frozen." In other words, still frozen partially in the middle. She tried to cook it, and after HOURS in the oven, it was still raw on the inside and as chewy as leather on the outside!

Plumbing Problems
Terri Terrell: Just before Thanksgiving the hot water pipe in my kitchen floor busted causing flood. Had to climb over all sorts of drying fans and machinery to cook dinner that year. Plus the kitchen was tented off from the rest of the house and cupboards were sealed up due to possible mold. It was awful. But! The dinner turned our wonderful.

Donna Fritz Nalbach: Seriously plugged up the disposal about 30 minutes before dinner...most of the food was ready but could not use the sink or dishwasher...washed dishes for 12 in the basement stationary tub and bathroom tub!

Good Food, Annoying Guests
Jill Echols: My in-laws were coming from out-of-state for one of our first Thanksgivings early in my marriage. I was certainly going to impress my mother-in-law with a full Martha Stewart spread (from her November 1995 magazine). To achieve the perfect presentation the Roots Anna recipe requires that you "Place a cast-iron skillet on the foil" during baking; but I did not have one. I improvised by using a large, washed rock to weigh down a second pan placed on top of the potatoes. My mother-in-law opened the oven, peeked inside, and asked, "Is THAT the Turkey?"

Jennifer Filice: You mean like my boyfriend's mom feeding her entire extended family before coming over to the full Thanksgiving dinner I'd prepared?

Kimberly Argus Lish: Before we were married, my now husband invited some childhood friends for Thanksgiving dinner. They were the worst guests in the world: the children were out of control and the wife kept trying to talk to my husband about her single sister (whom he dated in high school) and how good she looked now. To make matters worse, one of the elements in our stove had broken without our knowledge and the turkey wasn't cooking. After ten hours of nightmarish guests and cooking in a broken oven, we finally managed to get some turkey cooked enough to eat. Needless to say, it was the worst Thanksgiving ever!

For all things Thanksgiving, including our complete guide to turkey, how-videos, a stuffing and dressing primer, and an essential equipment checklist, see Epicurious' Ultimate Turkey Day Package.

More from Epicurious.com:

Bobby Flay's Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving on a Budget
One-Dish Wonders: Our Favorite Casserole Recipes
The Best Fall Recipes

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