Over 500 People Reveal Their Biggest Thanksgiving Fails

Thanksgiving is one holiday that is totally, entirely, 100 percent about the main event — that event being an enormous meal with a menu strictly dictated by tradition. From the entrée to the side dishes to dessert, you dare not stray too far from approved holiday fare, lest you be visited by the Ghosts of Pilgrims Past. But no pressure!

Who are we kidding, that's actually a huge amount of pressure, at least on whatever unlucky schmuck gets stuck preparing the Thanksgiving feast. (A person, or persons, who, needless to say, will only be feeling truly thankful once the cooking and cleaning is over and done with — or at least, until someone else volunteers to wash the dishes.) And it's a well-known corollary that the greater the pressure, the higher the chance of failure. Still, if it makes you feel any better, no matter how hard you fail at Thanksgiving, others before you (including those overly judgmental ectoplasmic Pilgrims) have managed to make an even bigger mess of things. In order to ease your fears — or feed your schadenfreude if you won't be the one doing the cooking this year — Mashed conducted a survey of 555 people around the U.S. and asked them to share the worst ways they ruined Thanksgiving.

The top flops all involved the turkey

Timing, as they say, is everything, but it's also one of the hardest things to control when you're cooking for a crowd. Nearly a quarter (23.78 percent, to be exact) of our respondents told us their biggest mistake was finishing cooking the bird too early, so it was cold by serving time. Another 22.7 percent experienced issues carving up that tricky turkey, although luckily none went into any grisly details regarding horrendous accidents with electric knives.

Still others (19.82 percent) flirted with food poisoning, serving up turkeys that were still raw inside. 9.55 percent had the opposite problem, burning their birds to a crisp, while 7.57 percent somehow managed to drop the main dish. (Hey, those things can get slippery!) No word as to whether they went ahead and served up the dropped turkeys, although this may have depended in a large part on whether there were witnesses to the accident or not (and whether those witnesses could be bribed with the promise of turkey from the non-dropped side, plus an extra slice of pie for later).

Still others had different issues with their turkeys

16.58 percent of our respondents answered "other," and many of them were so kind as to supply a write-in reason to go along with that choice. As usual, we had a large number of non-answer answerers, many of them saying that they'd never cooked nor, in some cases, even ever eaten a turkey. Still others — a surprising amount of them — said that they had never, ever failed, which seems unlikely, but who knows, maybe our random poll somehow managed to reel in both Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray.

Others admitted to mistakes such as accidentally leaving the innards inside (more than one person did this, it's actually not all that uncommon), while a few experienced accidents along the lines of having their oven break or the power go out. There was even one respondent whose turkey was swiped off the counter by a St. Bernard – though we guess that's still better than losing your dinner to a Chihuahua with a stepladder.

Some Thanksgiving fails didn't involve turkey at all

While the turkey may be the easiest part of the meal to screw up, there's plenty of room for error with sides and desserts as well. One person spoke of making "gooey mashed potatoes" (it's a known issue), while another said they "ran out of cornbread dressing." Still another said that they "made a substitution when I made the green bean casserole and it definitely didn't work!", while one respondent even admitted to making the classic mistake of accidentally swapping salt for sugar in their apple pie, and that didn't turn out too well, either.

Still others had non-food-related "fails" such as "family issues," "late guests, or "crash[ing] a family Thanksgiving dinner" (their own family's, or someone else's, they didn't say). One response we're still trying to figure out: "passing on 'normal'". Did the problem lie in having too normal of a holiday celebration, or one that was completely lacking in normality? And is there even such a thing as a "normal" Thanksgiving? Sure doesn't seem like it. Anyway, at least if you goof up anything this year, you may rest assured that thousands (perhaps millions) will be sharing a similar experience.