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Let’s Talk Turkey: Thanksgiving Day Risk Management

4 min read
Nov 23, 2021

When you’re planning the biggest feast of the year, things can go wrong. You may have invited your family, got your groceries, and planned an elaborate tablescape (or bought some disposable plates and cutlery because you like to keep it simple), but are you really ready to tackle the potential risks of Thanksgiving? 

Ncontracts is here to help ensure that you are with a brief rundown of what can go wrong on Thanksgiving and strategies for mitigating these risks.  

Risk #1: Forgetting to turn on the oven.  

Thanksgiving is the American oven’s biggest day of the year. Who would forget to turn on this essential appliance?  

Answer: one staffer’s mother. 

The family was hanging out, wondering when dinner would be ready when mom went to check on the turkey’s progress. It had been roasting for hours—or so she thought. Turns out, the bird was basted and stuffed, but the oven was off. Thanksgiving dinner was served very late that year. 

Mitigation tactics: 

      • Preheat the oven before preparing the turkey. 
      • Check on turkey on regular intervals. Note temperature and color of turkey. If turkey is cold or not browning, double check to make sure the oven is on. 
      • Sniff test. Can you smell turkey? If not, check the oven. 
      • Basting: If you baste the bird and the liquid doesn’t sizzle when it hits the bottom of the pan, investigate whether the oven is on. 

Risk #2: Burning your food.  

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner requires a lot of concentration. With multiple dishes cooking at the same time, it’s easy to get distracted and forget about a dish that needs attention. 

Consider the story of a staffer’s first Thanksgiving with his in-laws. Newly married, he walked into the kitchen to see his brother-in-law working quickly to salvage what was left of a burnt pot of squash.  

When praised for his heroic actions, the brother-in-law deadpanned: “I remember the smell from last year.”  

Mitigation tactics:  

      • Don’t leave cooking food unattended. 
      • If you must leave cooking food unattended, set timers reminding you to check on food. 
      • Don’t let easily distracted family members cook. 
      • If an easily distracted family member insists on cooking, assign someone to secretly oversee the process. A little subterfuge can save Thanksgiving. 

Risk #3: Lack of turkey knowledge.  

Most Americans only make a whole turkey once or twice a year. That means many of us have limited experience—or we go so long between turkeys that we forget how to handle this poultry giant. 

It can happen to the best of us. 

One employee and her sister decided to be Thanksgiving heroes and take over turkey duty from their mother. They’d seen their mom do it plenty of times. 

It was going great until it was time to stuff the bird. (Food safety experts always warn that you should cook your stuffing outside the turkey, but they are a stuffing family. For them, the risk is worth the reward.) The sisters wanted to fit as much stuffing as humanly possible into the bird, but the turkey’s cavity was absurdly small. They studied the cavity, wondering what kind of freak turkey the people at Butterball had provided them.  

Then they did the only thing a pair of sisters (who may have been oversampling the wine in the name of Thanksgiving quality control) could do in pre-Internet times. They called the Butterball Turkey Talkline where the operator matter-of-factly suggested they flip over the turkey. Alas, there was the stuffing hole! Crisis averted. 

Mitigation strategies: 

      • Don’t leave two giggly, unattended amateurs in charge of Thanksgiving dinner. 
      • Wait until the turkey is in the oven before sampling the wine. 
      • Have the good people at Butterball on standby. Butterball experts are available to answer questions by phone, text, online chat, email, the Butterball Skill for Amazon Alexa, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.   Call 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372) or text 844-877-3456. 

Risk #4: Wrangling a frozen turkey.  

It takes about four days to thaw a 16-pound turkey in the fridge, according to the USDA. That’s a long time, especially if you’re not the meal prepper type and you only think about dinner plans when you start to feel hungry. With over half of Americans buying frozen turkeys, this may be one of the greatest risks to Thanksgiving feasts.  

Mitigation tactics:  

      • It’s Tuesday. If your turkey isn’t defrosting right now, you better have the local Chinese restaurant on speed dial. You’re going to need it. 
      • Call Butterball (see number above) to see if they can offer emergency advice. 
      • Set a reminder on your phone for next year right now! 

Risk #5: Heated political discussions at the table.  

Everyone has that relative who just can’t get off the soapbox and stop spouting their political views. Add in a small room with too many people in it and nowhere to hide (plus the aforementioned wine) and you’re headed for your family’s own personal revival of CNN Crossfire. It’s not exactly the Norman Rockwell painting you had in mind. 

Mitigation strategies: 

      • Agree to a “no politics” rule ahead of time. 
      • Agree not to take the bait when Uncle Al ignores the no politics rule. 
      • Prepare a list of safe topics ahead of time. (Here’s a head start: favorite types of pie; an Egyptian rainstorm that woke up all the scorpions and sent them on a rampage;  broken space toilets; coolest Disney villain...) 
      • Turn up the football game really loud. 

Happy Thanksgiving from everyone at Ncontracts!  


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