True Tales of Thanksgiving: Allrecipes Home Cooks Share Their Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs

So Thanksgiving went a little sideways. So what?

Family Enjoying Thanksgiving Around Table
Photo: filadendron/Getty Images

It always feels like there's a lot riding on Thanksgiving. And it seems that every story about Thanksgiving includes the words "perfect" or "stress-free." But let's be real — stuff happens, especially in the kitchen.

Do life's little missteps mean Thanksgiving is ruined? Not if you have the right attitude. With a few exceptions, what goes sideways at Thanksgiving could turn into heartwarming (or hair-raising) stories to share for years to come. Here are a few true-life tales of Thanksgiving gone sideways, straight from our community of home cooks. Just so you know you're not alone.

Up In Smoke

side view of a golden brown turkey on a platter

"My husband decided he wanted to smoke a turkey one year and we heavily underestimated the amount of time it would need. Our guests wouldn't have had any turkey if we didn't also happen to have some pre-cooked turkey meat from the store that we could heat in the oven. Luckily our immediate family got to enjoy the delicious smoked turkey for leftovers!" —fabeveryday

The Up Side of Upside-Down

"As a young wife, I was cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner for in-laws. It was stuffed and trussed and I was so proud of how it looked. As I was basting the bird every so often, I kept thinking it looked really 'different' in the pan. My curiosity finally got the better of me and I dug out my cookbook (this was before the Internet). My beautiful, different-looking turkey had been roasting for hours breast-side down. I successfully got it turned over and it was honestly the best, moistest turkey I'd ever eaten. Lesson learned...some mistakes are great ones!" —Judy in Delaware

What's In a Name

Hummingbird Cake topped with whole and chopped pecans
ivory stafford

"When we were first married, we faced the age-old question of where we would spend Thanksgiving — with his family or mine. I decided to host the dinner, for both families! I assigned various items to different family members, and I asked my mom to bring dessert. After a successful feast, it was time for dessert. Mom brought a new recipe she'd heard about, a Hummingbird Cake. No one knew what to expect from a cake with a name like that, so all of us actually waited to begin eating the cake until everyone was served. That in itself was noteworthy! Finally, all 12 people were served with cake, and in unison, we all took a bite. In a delighted chorus, we all — to a person — lifted our faces and said, 'Mmm-mmmm!' and then we all laughed! I think, maybe, that is where the name comes from, lol! —Bibi

Frozen Assets

"The first time I made turkey, I asked around at work for advice. They filled me in on pulling out pin feathers and how to cook it. I went and bought the turkey and much to my surprise I learned you can't cook a frozen turkey for days. Nobody thought to tell me that little tidbit. So I cooked it frozen with everything inside and it took a while longer, but came out just fine, once I took the cooked inside package out!" —Carol Castelucci Miller

And the Heat Goes On

"The last time I made a turkey, I decided to get a fancy free-range bird. I cooked it in a counter top roaster on our patio at high-heat to start. Well, I forgot to turn it down. By the time I realized it, the turkey was nearly to temp. So, I waited just a bit longer. Then, while removing the turkey from the roaster, the turkey fell apart because it was so tender! Best turkey ever!" —MrsFisher0729

Saved by the Grill

a deeply bronzed turkey on a kettle-style grill

Pictured: The Greatest Grilled Turkey

"Many many years ago we had Thanksgiving at my in-laws' house, and we cooked the turkey there. Well, they hadn't checked the amount of propane they had beforehand, and ran completely out of it (for their entire house, but also for their gas stove/oven) while the turkey was midway cooked. So, besides all the other stuff going on with that, Hubby had the brilliant idea of grilling the bird the rest of the way — and wouldn't you know it? It worked! The turkey turned out delicious, and Thanksgiving wasn't a total loss! (But MIL was super super peeved, to put it nicely, at FIL for not checking propane amount before Thanksgiving!" —Kim

Boozing and Broiling Don't Mix

"My biggest learning: Do not attempt to 'broil' your meringue when you start drinking at 10 a.m. on T-day. You will char the pie. And have to scrape off the top. The pie was still good." —Anonymous AR Staffer

Grandma's Good Gravy

"Years ago, I found myself all alone for the Thanksgiving holiday. I was out-of-state and had no way to come back home. I decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner for one. I already had leftover turkey meat (from a previous whole turkey I had cooked) but decided to cook a turkey tenderloin instead. My menu consisted of turkey tenderloin, dressing, my mum's broccoli casserole, corn, sweet potatoes with praline topping, and mashed potatoes.

All was well until I remembered I didn't have my Granna's recipe for giblet gravy. I choked back the tears as a lump formed in my throat and suddenly all the food I worked so hard to make wasn't appetizing. I had a brief cry, and turned to Allrecipes. There I found a recipe nearly identical to my Granna's recipe. I remembered I had chunked the plastic packet of "turkey crud" (hah! That's what I called it!) from the whole turkey in the freezer, and proceeded to make my giblet gravy. As silly as it sounds, that gravy recipe made all the difference!" —thedailygourmet

Exceeds Expectations

Carrying the Turkey to the Table

"I was 19 years old and a sophomore in college. My mom, grandma, and sister were driving six hours on Thanksgiving Day to come spend Thanksgiving weekend at my house (my roommates were gone and I had the place to myself). The plan was for them to head out at 6 a.m., reach my house by about noon, then to go out to a Thanksgiving buffet, since asking a 19-year-old to prepare Thanksgiving dinner by herself didn't seem quite right. I went for it, though, and kept it a secret...they arrived as planned around lunchtime, and I had the whole Thanksgiving table laid, complete with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and all. My mom and grandma were shocked but also super proud, and it was probably the most memorable Thanksgiving we've ever had!" —Diana Moutsopoulos

The Feast That Almost Wasn't

The very first time I did a Thanksgiving dinner, I decided I was going to make everything from scratch. Mind you, I really had never made anything because I was always the "taster" or "helper. Lol. So I thought starting the day before I would be able to get everything done. Needless to say, tired, cranky and confused as to why nothing was cooking when it had been in the oven for hours, I realized I turned the oven on and the oven timer. I didn't know that the oven timer automatically shut off the oven when it went off. So everything I had in the oven was no good and I to make other dishes with what I had on hand.

I did oven bag chicken, green beans and mushrooms, ham, green salad, rolls, egg salad, and potato salad. I didn't have anything else in the house. It was good, but it was barely enough to feed everyone. But it was perfect. We ate a lot of dessert. I didn't make it, but we had sweet potato pie and peach cobbler. There were several sweet potato pies. —Karla Harmer

The Best-Laid Plans

"When I hosted my very first grown-up Thanksgiving, I planned my recipes, printed up fancy menus, and set a formal table. But when we all sat down to dinner, I discovered I FORGOT to make the first course! (It was supposed to be soup.) And I foolishly used my new food processor to make the mashed potatoes, which promptly turned them into potato glue. My friends were very forgiving and we all laughed about it, but even after many years of subsequent Thanksgiving dinners, I still cringe when I think about that first fail." —foodelicious

Here's to a happy, healthy, perfectly imperfect Thanksgiving — from all of us at Allrecipes.

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