The Thanksgiving table is set. The drinks have been poured. Conversation is flowing. And the turkey is … burnt?
We’ve all had things go wrong in the kitchen. And the idea of a big task like cooking a turkey, or making an apple pie for the first time, or even just hosting a holiday dinner can be stressful.
No matter how much you plan (though planning does help), things can go awry in the kitchen.
But you can still salvage your holiday, no matter how the cooking goes.
USA TODAY spoke to some famous chefs who gave advice on what to do if things go wrong in the kitchen.
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Carla Hall: Keep calm and get creative
Chef Carla Hall (“Holiday Baking Championship”) advises cooks to think creatively when things don’t go as planned.
With a little outside-the-box thinking, a mistake can turn into something great.
“Let’s say like a pie doesn’t turn up right,” she says. “Make it a parfait. Put it into a glass with some cream on top, right? … Put some toasted nuts and make it a thing.”
Marcus Samuelsson: The turkey can be saved
Marcus Samuelsson, Iron Chef and restaurateur , encourages at-home chefs to focus on how to move forward when presented with an overcooked or undercooked turkey.
“If the bird is undercooked, you can take it off the bone and go back into the oven,” he says. “If it burns, then it’s a different proposition. But you can take the skin off and replace it with a (glaze of) maple syrup and some great spices.”
What if the gravy is salty or the turkey is dry?
Though a dish can be entirely transformed, it’s possible that an added ingredient can make all the difference.
Say your dressing or gravy is too salty. You can put in a raw potato to absorb some of the salt, she says.
Or, if your turkey is dry, which Hall calls a “big one” in terms of kitchen conundrums, you can slice it up and put the sliced turkey into your gravy.
When it comes to sides, more is better
“I think that when it comes to the sides, have more than two or three options and make them not all heavy-prep,” Samuelsson says, noting that you can easily make a very good slaw, salad or stuffing in addition to the casseroles, mashed potatoes and mac and cheese.
And, if something goes wrong with the main course, you can make a perfectly lovely meal out of a variety of sides.
When all else fails: Order or go out to dinner, Michael Symon says
There’s a reason Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, Food Network chef Michael Symon tells USA TODAY.
Hitting a restaurant can be a good option. And it can prevent trouble in the kitchen. Some restaurants offer takeout options for sides or for the turkey, taking pressure off home cooks who may not want to deal with preparing everything that hits the table.
“(If it’s) your first big holiday, to be able to depend a little bit on a restaurant to get some things isn’t the worst thing,” Symon says, noting that by doing so you protect yourself from some potential kitchen disasters.
And, if all else fails and you don’t want to go out, Top Chef judge Gail Simmons tells USA TODAY that holiday cooking isn’t worth getting worked up about.
“The part that people remember the most is the time that you spent together.”