Why Cooking A Turkey is Like Being in a Horror Film…or at an OB-GYN office

turkeyI’m proud to say that today I completed the pre-Thanksgiving grocery store trip well in advance of the crowd. SCORE! Fifteen minutes after putting the groceries away, I discovered I forgot aluminum foil. UGG!

My mother had the right idea. When I was little, we often went to the cafeteria on Thanksgiving. I’m starting to think that is a tradition I should adapt.

I went years cooking a small turkey breast before attempting the BIG BIRD. After cooking a thawed turkey for 6-8 hours (the frozen directions) there was nothing edible left, so we enjoyed Thanksgiving with sliced deli turkey and the fixin’s.

There are 2 things I can’t touch while cooking without going completely psycho:

  • Fish with the skin still on it
  • A whole bird

Cooking a turkey – the non-Martha Stewart way

The holiday event I dread most is fast approaching. I will never be asked to be a guest on a cooking show, and I’m relieved because it would be embarrassing. Thanksgiving morning begins with my kids anxiously awaiting the turkey preparation because they don’t want to miss the show. “Hurry…she’s doing the turkey.” Apparently it is entertaining.

Step 1: Put on thick latex gloves

Sorry I just can’t touch it.


They must be the thick kind for handling toxic substances. I'm not taking any chances.

Step 2: Open package

By some miracle I successfully release the turkey from his plastic wrapping with the giant industrial staple holding it closed. Are they afraid it is going to escape? This is the initial point I freak out that I am holding a whole dead bird in my hand. With NBA precision, I toss it into the sink, regain my composure, and question whether we really need turkey this year. If I want the 5 year old to take a nap, yes we do. L-tryptophan is my best friend, so I trudge onward.

Step 3: Remove the yucky stuff from the inside

I didn’t know they package the yucky insides of the turkey in a bag in case for some sick reason you want to use them for something, and I left it in one year. Needless to say that was the 2nd unedible turkey experience. What came out of the oven looked like it was from a horror movie as it was a turkey in a blood bath of juices. Deli meat, again.

I should be happy that I’m just removing a bag and not the actual organs which I couldn’t stomach.

After learning that lesson the hard way, I’m thinking scrubs would be more appropriate than an apron as I perform my turkey OBGYN duties and remove the bag. The bag is still frozen and doesn’t want to come out. I’m turning it and pulling it trying to make it fit. It’s like delivering a baby…sort of…only not as rewarding, and the only one crying is me.

Step 4: Rinse the turkey

This is the part that gets me every time and why the kids line up to watch. At some point in the rinsing and having to move this turkey around in my hands, I freak out and scream wildly. I’M HOLDING AN ENTIRE HEADLESS DEAD BIRD! goes through my head and I drop it in the sink and back away in horror. This happens several times. This doesn’t happen on cooking shows, right?

I remember watching my mother clean a turkey and pulling out some missed feathers (which I couldn’t see) after thoroughly inspecting it. If I have to pull out a feather I’m going to be passed out on the floor. I wouldn’t have survived 1 week in the pioneer days. Pulling feathers out is too Little House on the Prairie for a city girl like me. I’m going to see if there is a line of bald ones, because a bald turkey would be beautiful about now.

My mind wanders, “I wonder if there is pizza delivery on Thanksgiving”, and I announce that next year we are going to the cafeteria. Isn’t there an Italian version of Thanksgiving dinner? Weren’t some of the Mayflower pilgrims Italian? I only need one to justify lasagna.

Step 5: Get the turkey into the cooking bag

At this point, I ask for a volunteer from the audience to hold the bag while I brave carrying the bird a few feet and place it inside without freaking out and dropping it on the floor. A lot of screaming and crazy looks occur in this process. Usually my assistant has forgotten to pre-open the bag, leaving me holding the turkey longer than I am comfortable with.

The 3rd messed up turkey was an unfortunate miscalculation of which side was what once I mangled and wrestled it into the bag. Oops…I cooked it upside down. That was painfully clear when it came out of the oven looking like roadkill rather than the picture on the recipe. FYI: turkey doesn’t brown nicely upside down.

Once it is safely in the bag, I’m all good and feel very Martha Stewart-ish. I stand back and announce “Aaa…That was easy” as if nothing happened.

The kids leave the room disappointed the show is over.

What I am thankful for

Of course I am thankful for my three fabulous kids and wonderful family. I’m also thankful that I live in a time where boneless chicken breasts exist, and I don’t have to slaughter something myself. However, this year I am super thankful that my friend and I are doing a combined Thanksgiving dinner, and she is doing the turkey. She volunteered! I didn’t even have to beg. It’s like Christmas came early!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my U.S. friends!


  1. I’m thankful for a great sister that keeps me smiling. I’ll think of you as I have my turkey burger and pumpkin pie. I’d better get to the store for a pie before they all sell out. LOL Y’all have fun!

  2. Oh geez, such imagery Melinda! Your account of “delivering” a so-called gizzard baby and your attempts to justify Thanksgiving lasagna has me cracking up!

  3. Great tale culinary mayhem Melinda. I’ve “Done The Turkey” a few times and can relate. I don’t break out the chemical spill gloves, but it gets kinda creepy rinsing out the inside of the bird.

    Thanks for a good laugh to start my day!
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  4. I’m in tears laughing!! Luckily, I don’t have the same paranoia about dead birds! I can’t wait for Thursday. We’re all looking forward to it! I’m bringing earplugs for all of you because I plan on singing!

  5. Hi Melinda

    That was very graphic gal….ugh!!! When I was living and working in the UK we had turkey for Christmas and I could never understand why we had to buy a huge bird and eat it for days lol Everyone would complain but they still insisted on having it…..tradition 😉

    Thankfully we don’t do that here in Oz. We have chicken and/or roast lamb. Lots of people have abandoned the traditional Christmas roast as it will be about 37C (100F) then as it’s our summer. My Mum still likes traditional so we have it for her really.

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving. Sounds like the whole of the US stops work for is it a day or a week? Hope there will be a few of us working or it will be a bit quiet on the net.

    Patricia Perth Australia
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  6. The kids are out of school this week although usually it is only 3 days. Almost everything is closed Thanksgiving day. So you have a similar holiday?

    • No, we have to wait for Christmas. I think it is just the US cos when I lived in the UK they didn’t have Thanksgiving either.

      Hope all went well and how cool that someone else is doing the cooking eh 🙂

      Patricia Perth Australia
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  7. Good Story!! Happy Thanksgiving to all
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  8. I’m tempted to put rubber gloves on whenever I have to touch even chicken breasts. There’s just something about raw meat that grosses me out.

  9. I cooked a turkey for the first time last Thanksgiving and as I held the bag of giblets in my hand I thought that this was the closest I was ever gonna get to performing an autopsy like procedure..lol. I am only doing a smoked ham this year. I love that the ham looks nothing remotely like the live animal 🙂
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  10. Thank you Melinda and Happy Thanksgiving to you. It looks like you did receive a great gift by not having to prepare the turkey yourself. Touching raw meat is not a problem but I have never had to clean a fish and I don’t think I ever want to. Of course I would never want to be Tom Hank’s character in Cast Away, but if I were I don’t know how I would clean the fish I caught.

    I still haven’t figured out what meat we are having this year but I wish you and your family Good Eats!
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  11. This is classic! No matter how old I get I still have my mom prepare the bird. I suppose I will have to do it someday, but until then I don’t wanna touch it!
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  12. I admire your braveness and knowledge that you have to remove the bag inside! I once cooked the turkey with it in there. (not too surprising, I imagine). Don’t you think if they are going to clen up the bird and do all that, it should just be “oven ready”? Why do I have to give it a bath and a gynecological exam before I can cook it? Pffffft. (Thank goodness for my hubby or we’d be eating McDonald’s on Thanksgiving!) That’s American, though, right? Hope you had a marvelous holiday!
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  13. This was thoroughly entertaining!! I loved it! I have never made a turkey all bah mahseyelf and I don’t want to… I know that’s pathetic. There is a barbecue restaurant nearby that we love and they have the BEST sliced turkey. We love it. I eat it every time we go there when everyone else is eating chopped beef. So, we got that this year. All of the scenarios you described are just the reason I don’t want to do it. I’m too scared! I will have to reference your steps next year if I decide to act like a big girl and cook that dang, headless bird.
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    • Ha ha good luck if you do. I lucked out this year. My friend’s turkey was magazine-front-cover-worthy and I know she was relieved I wasn’t doing it.

      I would be all for something already cooked from the restaurant and would pop it on the platter, add some garnishes..and voila…claim it as my own. Hard to beat a good BBQ restaurant.

  14. LOLOL << Me rolling on the floor.

    I'm not laughing AT you, I'm laughing WITH you. Did you do this on purpose:

    I should be happy that I’m just removing a bag and not the actual organs which I couldn’t "stomach."

    That pun is priceless!!!!

    Anyway, I was offline for almost five whole days. So I missed this when you posted it. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!


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  15. Absolutely love this one Melinda. Hilarious, and the imagery is too much. You got me with the pic of rubber gloves. Excellent!

    I can’t even stay to watch my GF pull the goody bag of innards out.

    • LOL! It is just a white bag..you can watch. Unless she is like me and accidentally punctures it with a knife trying to get it out. I’m pretty sure I am authorized to delivery babies after 3 successful deliveries, and hopefully that isn’t only good on a farm.

  16. I couldn’t help sharing this post with my family so I could laugh out loud without getting weird looks. Incase you cook a turkey again my mom told me that if you fill the turkey with warm water and let it sit for a few minutes the bag of yucky stuff thaws and comes out much easier. I wouldn’t know as I avoid this part of the prep as if the bird were carrying the plauge.
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    • Lol that’s ironic you comment on this as tonight I carved up my first whole chicken (I didn’t cook it the grocery store did) and I thought of this post. Ooo good tip on the water and it will save me from buying scrubs although I was thinking that would be cool.