Real World Cooking isn’t Always Pretty

News flash: we all screw up when we are cooking. Sometimes it is the slightly too brown grilled cheese sandwich or the slightly too rare steak. Other times it means breaking out the mop to clean up a spectacular spill, or smoke alarms and mandatory oven cleaning. Saturday was the latter. I’m talking clouds of greasy steam, billows of smoke and a blackened oven.


I was cooking a small second Thanksgiving dinner to share with my parents. We had all celebrated at my cousin’s house this year, which was wonderful, but it left us with no leftovers. That situation couldn’t go on, hence, the second dinner.

At the very end of its cooking time, we checked on the turkey to see if it was done early. It was, but my parents were still on the road, so I pushed the turkey back into the oven so it would stay hot until they arrived. Or, rather, I tipped the turkey off the back of the pulled-out rack and poured turkey drippings and broth all over the bottom of the oven. Chaos ensued. And my parents walked in at that very inopportune moment.


After much mopping in the hot oven, with wads of paper towels held in tongs, the billowing smoke and steam stopped. I washed the greasy splatters off my glasses and got on with cooking the rest of dinner, which turned out to be quite tasty. We even had enough turkey broth left to make a killer gravy. And I now have a beautifully clean oven.



22 thoughts on “Real World Cooking isn’t Always Pretty

  1. This may be old news to you, but I learned quite recently that if you (carefully!) pour salt over an oven spill as soon as you see it (or smell it….) you can carry on cooking. The salt absorbs the spill, eliminating the smoke and all that baked-on action, and you can just wipe up the salt later, and the spill comes up with it. Works like a charm. Might not have been as effective given the magnitude of your spill, but it’s handy to know for the next, hopefully smaller, disaster. At least now you’re starting over with a nice clean oven.


    • Now I remember the salt thing! I totally forgot about it at the time! It probably would have helped after I wiped up most of the liquid. Thank you! I’ll remember that for next time, which will hopefully be a smaller mess! 🙂

  2. I was lead cook for the free community meal on Saturday. Menu was sausage, scrambled eggs, blueberry pancakes, fruit salad, oatmeal and other cold cereals. Along with some regular volunteers, I had 5 AmeriCorps people helping – amazing young people (helpful, cheerful, hard-working, eager, non-judgmental). We had about 20 butts in a 15 butt kitchen!

    Only half the griddle would light. We did pancakes 9 at a time (instead of 20 at a time). And there was a peculiar foam that would appear at times from under the dishwasher – then it would go away. I didn’t look too closely!

    All-in-all it was a success. We still managed to feed 114!

  3. Okay, so after all the sopping up and everybody left, I take it you used the self-clean oven component to finish cleaning? I’ve had my Dacor combo for 12 years and haven’t had the courage to use the self-clean on my oven. I just clean up the major spills and wipe down the inside every so often.

    • I did use the self-clean. I don’t use it often, probably 4 times in the 15 years we have been in this house. If I were better about wiping it out I probably wouldn’t have used it even that much. It does make me nervous knowing that it gets so hot, but it is nice to have the option of the self-clean cycle.

  4. I did something similiar a few Thanksgivings a go. I was pulling my caramel apple pie out of the oven, it bumped my other pie & tipped over in the oven. There is nothing worse than cleaning up a sticky mess.

    • It is a hard job, especially because the door is in the way! We have had a self-cleaning oven for the past 15 years, but we don’t use that feature often. It heats up to 900-1000 degrees and burns off all the burned on residue.

      I used to hate the chemical cleaners when I did use them, before we moved into this house, with its self-cleaning oven. I wondered how many brain cells I was killing, with my head in the oven. And I was always so afraid I would get some of it on my skin. I like your way much better! Is it hard to get the baking soda rinsed off all the way?

  5. look how pretty the oven is now! 🙂 disasters happen. mostly when people are coming over, at least in my case. ALWAYS during times when food is at the center of the party. Don’t feel too bad: i was doing far too much this thanksgiving and scorched (and i mean BLACK AS NIGHT) the top of my sweet potatoes with meringue. the burn was so complete that i could actually peel it off as a layer, which turned out good, because the sweet potatoes were (sort of) saved. thanksgiving? tough. even smaller ones. you did great. 🙂

    • Why, thank you, Shannon. I don’t think anyone has ever called my oven “pretty.” 🙂 Isn’t it amazing how quickly something can go over the line to burned black and unsalvageable? At least you were able to serve them, minus the top of the meringue. 🙂 Cooking is half about knowing what to do when something goes wrong. Not really, but it feels like that sometimes!

  6. Sarah,
    I had a similar ‘the turkey is done, but the guests aren’t here yet’ experience this year. As a result, after gosh more than 2 decades of doing my own bird I’ve produced my first ever dry turkey.

    Whoop dee doo. I suppose it serves me right for taking my happy turkey on the road to cook at someone else’s house. Next year I’m staying home and we’ll eat when the bird is done, regardless of where the guests are.

    I’m scared to try the self clean option on my oven, but I guess I could stand next to the fire extinguisher. I’m worried about my plaster walls.

    • I think everyone has a turkey story! I used to be afraid of the self-clean option, but no longer. If I hadn’t had such a big mess, I would have waited to do it when we could have the windows open. We had quite a bit of smoke and we did open the windows, but it got a little chilly in the house.

      Really, the best way to do it is to wipe out the oven first. You don’t have to scrub it, but get the biggest messes off the bottom. If we had wiped the oven down one more time we probably wouldn’t have had as much smoke. No flames, though, even with the turkey bath we gave the oven. 😉

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