10 Ways to Mess Up a Turkey

I’ve cooked a turkey at least once each of the last 15 years and invariably something goes wrong.  I’d like to save you some heartache by listing out the very worst ways to mess up a turkey.

I’m hoping you’ll learn from my mistakes.

how to mess up a turkey

10 Ways to Mess Up a Turkey

1. Forget to thaw it.  Yep done that. There I was, the day before Thanksgiving with a rock solid frozen bird.  You can read about how I solved that one in this turkey post.

2. Forget to pull the plastic bag of “innards” out of the bird.  Does this really need explanation?  While I’m on the subject, do yourself a favor. Do NOT make eye contact with anyone while holding the turkey neck.

3. Smell plastic and stick your unprotected hand inside a HOT turkey to remove the silly bag.  (You saw that one coming, didn’t you.)

4. Misread 1/4 cup of salt as 4 cups of salt when making the brine.  (Yes, it was as salty as you can imagine.)

When frying a turkey:

5. Put too much oil in the pot and end up calling 911.  (I haven’t done this one, but I have seen it. It looked like this video. Yikes.)

6. After frying, pour the hot oil into a plastic container and watch in horror as the plastic container melts and then seeps into the concrete.  You can read the whole sad story, including the part where we tried to fix it with kitty litter. (Pour a fresh cup of coffee for this one – it’s a three part story).

When grilling or smoking a turkey:

7. Forget that you don’t have any matches and try to start the fire using a piece of spaghetti. (That was two years ago. To make matters worse, the charcoal would NOT stay lit.)

8. Ignore pesky flame ups until the bird catches fire.  (I haven’t done this one, but I know who did. snicker)

 Turkey Related:

9. After you brine the turkey, be careful.  Don’t drop the glass bowl of raw turkey juice all over the floor.  (Two years ago.  Between the raw turkey nastiness and the glass embedded in my shoes, I threw away some brand new shoes that day. Sigh.)

10. Anything in this video.

This year, my husband is in charge of turkey cooking. I’m sure I’ll find something worth writing about.

Just so you know, the whole epic story from two years ago is sitting in my draft folder. It’s at 10,000 words and counting.  I’m thinking of writing a book called “how to mess up Thanksgiving in 10 easy chapters.”  Or maybe not.

Seriously… what did I miss? What’s #11 on this list?

Looking for more Thanksgiving goodness?  Check out my Thanksgiving page

Thanksgiving header.


10 ways to mess up a turkey.  Number 4 is my favorite.

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. I have one! I accidentally bought bone-in turkey breast one year…. which we couldn’t figure out how to place in the pan. It wouldn’t stand up… didn’t want to just lay it down.
    We ended up running a skewer across the top of the pan. I’m still not sure what I should have done!

    • I’ve never seen an in-bone breast for turkey. I think I would have turned it into a boneless breast and wrapped that thing in bacon. But the skewer thing was a great idea. How did it turn out?

  2. We have done a couple of these! Thanks for the laugh today!

  3. HA HA HA HA at the salt one…YIKES! I can only imagine how that tasted! This is hilarious!-Ashley

  4. I have never made a turkey but I will definitely keep this awesome (funny, real, practical) list in mind should I ever attempt such a monumental Thanksgiving feast feat. 🙂

  5. You made me giggle! I’ve only done two of them – forgetting to thaw and leaving the bag inside. Let’s hope for better things this Thanksgiving!

  6. I baked my first turkey EVER yesterday, it turned out good.. although there may have been a bag of all the lovely parts still in the bird when it came out of the oven.. or not! I will never tell. LOL 😉

  7. One year we were camping and started the Turkey in the crock pot with butter and onions. After so many hours of turkey fat, butter and onions permeating the camper, we moved it outside…the smell was gagging us and the next day the thought of and smell of that turkey was almost to much.

  8. I just applaud you for even trying. I have NEVER cooked a turkey. In the 14 years I have been married we have always gone to see our parents on either side so thankfully (see I am really appreciating the meaning of season!) the mother and/or mother in law takes care of that job. I have however had a grease fire in my first apartment kitchen when I was a newly wed. Those are really scary! I did have to call 911 and have fire men put it out. Luckily no one was harmed and the apartment wasn’t in terrible shape either.

    • I’ve used a fire extinguisher. Yikes. I think “turkey cooking” skips a generation. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to transition from going to your parents’ house to feasting at your daughter or son’s house. That’s what my mom did.

  9. I remember the story of your frozen turkey in the Jacuzzi from last year when I posted about defrosting my turnkey on the kitchen counter and almost poisoning my mom. Your method is definitely better. A relaxed and tenderized turkey is way better than a turkey teeming with bacteria.

  10. Susan Baker – I may live thousands of miles away from you, in another country far away and do not participate in your customs such as Thanksgiving but you are a Mom and a wife and boy do you make me smile with your posts. Thank you for giving me so many smiles.

    • Tracey! Hello! Long time no hear. I understand that thanksgiving isn’t an international holiday, but even on the other side of this earth I’m pretty sure people make complicated holiday meals and roast big hunks of meat. Turkeys weigh 10-16 pounds normally. It’s a 3-4 day thaw process and a 3-4 hour roast. Does that help?

      I’ve been stalking your fb page – super excited to see your progress. Happy for you.

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