Most of us only make a whole turkey once a year. Cooking an extra-large bird isn’t the easiest kitchen task, and we don’t get a lot of practice! If you’re in charge of the main dish this Thanksgiving, a little preparation can help you pull it off perfectly. These are some of the most common problems with Thanksgiving turkey and how to avoid them 

perfectly cooked thanksgiving turkey

Why is my turkey dry?

This is the most common complaint when it comes to Thanksgiving turkey. If your turkey is dry, it means that the outer portion has overcooked. The size of the bird is what makes this a challenge. It can be difficult to achieve food safe temperatures at the center of the meat before the exterior dries out.

How to prevent it 

Keep your turkey moist by cooking it evenly. Let the turkey sit out of the refrigerator for about an hour before roasting. If you put a cold turkey into the oven it will take longer to cook. The heat works its way from the outside in, and the longer oven time will mean that the exterior has more time to dry out.

How to fix it

If you’re set on a whole turkey, just slather on the gravy! If the turkey is too dry to be enjoyable, dry dicing it up and serve turkey pot pie instead. The moist filling will disguise the dry turkey. 

roasted thanksgiving turkey

Why is my turkey bland?

If your Thanksgiving turkey is bland, it has probably been under-seasoned. Turkeys are big, and it takes a lot of salt and pepper to flavor the entire bird. 

How to prevent it 

Before cooking, season the entire turkey thoroughly with salt and pepper. This can be done the night before Thanksgiving. An overnight brown allows time for the flavors to penetrate deep into the meat. 

How to fix it

Once the turkey is cooked, there’s not much that can be done to correct the seasoning. Yet again, it’s gravy to the rescue. 

My turkey doesn’t have crispy skin 

This is a bummer, but not a disaster. Turkeys are large, and the ratio of meat to skin means that most pieces only include a small strip anyway. 

How to fix it

If you notice this problem before the turkey is completely done, you can turn the heat of the oven way up for the final few minutes. A blast of heat from a 450ºF oven might be enough to crisp up the skin before serving. If your turkey is done but the skin is rubbery and inedible, just take it off of the breast after carving. 

How to prevent it 

Water is the enemy of browning. Before your turkey goes in the oven, make sure that the skin is as dry as possible by patting the entire bird with paper towels. Rubbing the turkey with olive oil or butter before roasting will encourage browning. You can also baste the turkey with fat while it’s in the oven. 

My turkey exploded 

It can happen! If you fry a damp or partially frozen turkey, it can explode. The temperature of frying oil is around 350ºF, well above the boiling point of water. When water droplets or ice fragments are introduced to hot oil, they instantly expand and turn into steam. This rapid transformation generates pressure that can tear the bird apart, sending hot oil flying in the process. 

How to prevent it 

If you’re frying a turkey, be sure to thaw it for at least three days in the refrigerator. Dry the entire bird (including the cavity) thoroughly before setting it in the oil. For safety, stand as far away from the pot as possible when lowering the bird in. Oil can splash out of the pot if even a tiny bit of water remains. 

How to fix it 

There’s no coming back from this—order a pizza.

Looking for a delicious Thanksgiving meal that’s easy to prepare? Try one of Blue Apron’s holiday offerings and get everything you need delivered to your door. Once the holiday is over, try some of our favorite recipes with Thanksgiving leftovers.