1. Over Cook the turkey
Cooking the turkey from 5 am until dinner time was how grandma cooked a turkey. Doing that now is a guarantee for the dreaded dry turkey. You know when a turkey is done by its temperature and not by amount of time it has been in the oven. This is because a turkey's required cook time varies based on size, weight, temperature of the turkey when it went in the oven, etc.
How to avoid the dreaded dry turkey? Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Assuming you are cooking a 14 lb turkey, after it has been in the over for approximately 2 hours, measure the temperature of the turkey by placing a meat thermometer in its thigh. Then measure the temperature every 30 minutes. (You should take the temperature of the turkey during the same time that you are basting and rotating the turkey.) Once the temperature has reached 155 - 160 degrees - the turkey is done!
2. Carving the turkey as soon as it gets out of the oven
Cutting the turkey immediately when it comes out of the oven causes all of the juices (and all of your hard work) to run immediately out. The result? A dry turkey. Instead, wait 20 - 30 minutes to allow all of the juices to re-circulate and then slice it.
3. Carving the turkey incorrectly
There may be 30 ways to leave your lover, but there is only one way to carve a turkey. A picture is worth a thousand words and this video is going to give your turkey the recognition it deserves.
4. Forgetting to watch your breasts
The turkey breasts are the leanest part of the bird and therefore they cook the fastest. When you reach the approximate two hour mark, start checking the temperature of the breasts as well. If the temperature of the breasts have reached 155 - 160 degrees but the temperature in the thighs have not, put aluminum foil over the breast area of the bird to keep the moisture in while the rest of the turkey continues to cook.
5. Watching your breasts too much
Opening the oven too much can cause temperature fluctuations, uneven cooking and prolonged cooking. Only open the oven every 30 minutes to baste and rotate the turkey.
6. Forgetting who is coming to dinner
It has practically becoming family lore, the story of the Thanksgiving our aunt decided to get creative with dinner. The result? A table full of people wondering why there were raisins in the stuffing and other assorted nuances which are remembered every year as we are (once again) eating the traditional meal. If your guests tend to lean towards non-traditional, creative food - well, then certainly consider giving them what they want. But, if your guests are looking forward to that one Thanksgiving meal they get and expect every year - then give them what they came for.
7. Forgetting texture
Turkey, mash potatoes, stuffing and yams on one plate can get a bit, shall we say, baby food-ish? Adding some crunch can give the meal balance. Try adding a crisp romaine salad with pear or apples or toasted walnuts in the mashed sweet potatoes or squash.
8. Not seasoning the turkey correctly
To get the turkey taste you and your guests are looking forward, place your turkey in a roasting pan and line the bottom of the roasting pan with equal parts carrots, celery (do not include the root end or leaves) and yellow onions. Take one handful of equal parts fresh thyme, rosemary and sage, a quarter of a stick of butter, an apple cut in two and a lemon cut in two and place it inside the turkey. Soften ½ a pound of butter and rub it evenly over the entire turkey. Then season the outside of the turkey evenly with ¼ cup Matt's Mix. Every 30 minutes while it is in the oven, use a turkey baster to gather the juices at the bottom of the pan and spread them evenly across the turkey. Before closing the oven door, rotate the turkey. Continue to do this until has, you guessed it, reached 155 - 160 degrees.
9. Being too traditional with dessert
Ever notice most people have no problems eating a day or two of calories in one meal, but everyone seems to be "full" for dessert. An untested theory? Everyone loves the tradition of Thanksgiving dinner, but not everyone loves the tradition of Thanksgiving dessert. How about adding some chocolate or fresh berries in on the dessert tray.
10. Not being thankful.
In the midst of setting the table, greeting guests and waiting for 155 degrees to arrive, it is easy to forget that this day is all about being thankful. Don't forget to take a moment to enjoy all the many things in life in which to give thanks.