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HomeArts/LeisureOne Easy Lesson in How Not to Cook a Turkey

One Easy Lesson in How Not to Cook a Turkey

ChristmasClarksville, TN -Suddenly on my computer screen there appeared the ghost of Christmases past. One of my eternal disasters in the kitchen had come back to haunt me…..

This all started last summer. Little did I know it would turn my holiday turkey into just one more kitchen disaster.

I had a 16-pound turkey in my freezer; it was just the right size for Christmas Eve dinner. Everything seemed to be going on schedule. The bird had thawed for a few days in the garage refrigerator and I was ready for the big cook in.

Christmas Turkey Dinner.
Christmas Turkey Dinner.

The night before I would be cooking the turkey, I looked for my grandmother’s big roasting pan. The lid was under the counter where it was supposed to be. The pan was missing.

Then I remembered hurriedly packing all kinds of kitchen equipment last summer when I thought we’d be selling our house. Woe, weeping and wailing! I had no idea where I had packed it and I wasn’t about to plow through all those crates at 10:00pm.

Christmas Eve I got up early and decided I’d use a broiler pan minus the rack to cook the turkey in. After all, I reasoned, the turkey would be in a browning bag. What difference could it make that the sides were only an inch high instead of coming at least half way up the turkey?

Turkey in the oven—looking good! A few hours later, browned beautifully, the big bird was ready to come out.

I reached into the oven, grabbed the sides of the pan with my potholders, and started sliding bird, bag and pan out.

One mistake. The bag had drooped over the side of the pan. A hole had developed in the bag. The turkey was a Butterball and had produced volumes of broth.

Broth was running over the sides of the pan. As I pulled it out, I realized too late that broth was running all over the floor. When I set the pan on the counter, I could see broth running all over the counter, down the counter, under other objects on the counter.


Paper towels to the rescue. One roll, two rolls! Get the mop. Smoke rising from the bottom of the stove. More smoke. Still more smoke. Disaster!

The rest of the food I had to prepare in the oven had smoke smudges all over the dishes.

The next night I turned on the “clean oven” and braced for the results. Smoke billowed out. I turned on the fans. I opened the outside doors.

My eyes burned and tears flowed.

I worried that the neighbors would see the smoke rising and call the fire department.

My husband took refuge in the bedroom and closed the door against the stench and the smoke. The dog took refuge with him.

Smoke filled the house. The smoke alarms went off. I opened the garage door too. The garage began to reek of smoke. The clothes I had on smelled like I had bought them at a fire sale.

On and on the smoke burned away. Hours passed. The oven cleaning continued. I went to bed at midnight wondering if the oven would survive or if we’d die of smoke inhalation before morning.

Hallelujah! The next morning the oven had stopped smoking. A gray residue remained in the bottom as a reminder of the catastrophic event.

I sprayed air freshener. I cooked with onions. I used lemon furniture polish. I opened all the doors again. Who cared if it was 30 degrees outside!

Ah, finally the house was back to normal.

As for next year, I have a great solution for cooking the turkey. I’m going to remember how I hate to cook. I’m going to remember that things in my kitchen often go awry.

I’m going to order one already cooked! I know that the wonderful cooks at Kroger can do this a whole lot better than I can.

Oh, and, by the way, just in case you’re wondering, it actually was one of the best turkeys I’ve ever eaten even if I did nearly lose my mind cleaning up after the overflow.

Maybe if I find that roaster pan between now and next year……

Sue Freeman Culverhouse
Sue Freeman Culverhousehttp://culverhouseart.com/
Author of Tennessee Literary Luminaries: From Cormac McCarthy to Robert Penn Warren (The History Press, 2013) Sue Freeman Culverhouse has been a freelance writer for the past 36 years. Beginning in 1976, she published magazines articles in Americana, Historic Preservation, American Horticulturist, Flower and Garden, The Albemarle Magazine, and many others. Sue is the winner of two Virginia Press Awards in writing. She moved to Springfield, Tennessee in 2003 with her sculptor husband, Bill a retired attorney. Sue has one daughter,  Susan Leigh Miller who teaches poetry and creative writing at Rutgers University. Sue teaches music and writing at Watauga Elementary School in Ridgetop, Tennessee to approximately 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. She also publishes a literary magazine each year; all work in the magazine is written and illustrated by the students. Sue writes "Uncommon Sense," a column in the Robertson County Times, which also appears on Clarksville Online. She is the author of "Seven keys to a sucessful life", which is  available on amazon.com and pubishamerica.com; this is a self-help book for all ages.

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