This year, “Friends” turned 25 (don’t even think about how old that makes you), and Friendsgiving has become a widely celebrated occasion in its own right. Here are some lessons learned from every Thanksgiving episode of “Friends,” the show that started it all.
Whether it’s the one when Monica dances around with a raw turkey on her head or that time when Rachel made her still-famous pea-jam trifle, nothing says Friendsgiving more than binge-watching “Friends” and the show’s several Thanksgiving Day episodes.
Though the drama was/is always entertaining (and makes us feel better about our own “chosen-family” issues), lessons can be learned from what they actually made and ate. Below, what you can learn from the gang’s culinary wins and losses (Mokolate anyone?)
And after laughing at their botched attempts in the kitchen, go ahead and browse our Thanksgiving headquarters for meal plans that practically require Thanksgiving pants (hint, they’re in the maternity section).
Friends: The Complete Series (Blu-ray), $88.63 on Amazon
Binge the entire series along with your meal.
1. “The One Where the Underdog Gets Away”
Chef Monica starts the decade-long Friendsgiving precedent by hosting the dinner in her unrealistically huge New York City apartment when everyone’s individual family plans are ruined. Phoebe suggests Ross sticks his head inside the raw turkey to simulate what it’s like for his in-utero baby. Chandler is in favor of this idea. “In fact, I’d very much like to butter your head,” he says. In their excitement at watching the Underdog float that broke free from the Macy’s Day Parade from their roof, Monica gets locked out of her apartment and her elaborate feast is burned to an unrecognizable crisp. She had desperately tried to meet everyone’s potato needs: lumpy mashed potatoes for Ross, tater tots for Joey, and potatoes with peas and onions for Phoebe. Instead of totally giving up, the gang makes grilled cheese, drinks wine, and eats Chandler’s Funyuns.
Takeaway: First and foremost, don’t forget your keys if the oven is on and you run outside real quick. Also, you can’t please everyone. You may be tempted to make dishes that remind your friends of home but don’t go nuts. When it comes to potatoes, you can try one of these tater tot recipes or go the more traditional route.
2. “The One with the List”
Ross creates a list of Rachel’s faults so that he can make a decision between being with her or Julia. Of course, Rachel finds the list and drama ensues. Meanwhile, Monica’s gig developing recipes for Mockolate food product causes her to incorporate the artificial chocolate substitute into several dishes. Enter pumpkin pie with Mockolate cookie crumb crust, Mockolate cranberry cake, and Mockolate chip cookies. Both Rachel and Phoebe spit it out. “Oh, sweet Lord! This is what evil must taste like,” Phoebe says.
Takeaway: Don’t go crazy with substitutes at Thanksgiving. Anyone on a special diet—we’re looking at you, keto fanatics—can just deal. And when you’re making pie, go for something people want to eat, like this Classic Pumpkin Pie recipe. If you want to go a little off-menu, try one of these Updated Pumpkin Pie recipe ideas.
3. “The One with the Football”
For most of this episode, the only food on the menu is pigskin with all sorts of rivalries coming to a head between siblings, genders, and love interests. Bored by the game, Rachel says she “went really long,” and grabs a soft pretzel. We don’t even really see the gang eat until the end, while Ross and Monica remain on the field wrestling with the football.
Takeaway: The day doesn’t always have to center on the meal. (Gasp! We said that?!) Okay, let’s not get carried away. Food is everything. But remember this isn’t just about stuffing your face—get outside or play a game indoors. Enjoy each other’s company. Also? If you have a vegetarian friend like Phoebe coming over, opt for a stuffing they can enjoy too, like this Vegetarian Cornbread and Apple Stuffing recipe. (And maybe provide your own soft pretzels to ensure no one ditches your gathering.)
4. “The One with Chandler in a Box”
Chandler apologizes to Joey for kissing his girlfriend by confining himself to a box for hours, even during the dinner. “You can’t tell, but I’m trying to break the tension by mooning you guys,” Chandler says through the small hole in the box as the rest of them chow down at the table. Monica, sporting a black eye patch, is grossed out when she kisses her ex-boyfriend’s son. “Do you really want to be in a relationship where you can say, ‘You know, that’s not how your dad used to do it?’,” Phoebe says. This time, the gang gets to enjoy a delicious meal all together. Well, except Chandler, who any Friends fanatic knows, hates the holiday anyway.
Takeaway: Make amends with friends before the holiday to alleviate any uncomfortable situations. Don’t make out with the children of your ex. And roast a great turkey like Monica did. You can’t go wrong with this Roast Turkey with Herbed Gravy recipe.
5. “The One with the Thanksgiving Flashbacks”
This is perhaps the most memorable of the Turkey day episodes for the visuals alone—first Joey, and then Monica, put their heads inside a raw turkey. To top it off, you get fun 1980s flashbacks. We see fat Monica and later skinny revenge Monica who amputates Chandler’s toe while trying to seduce him. Back to the present, Chandler reminisces about his lost toe, saying “I miss the tip. That’s the best part.” He then blurts out that he loves Monica while she dances with her head inside the raw turkey.
Takeaway: Bread, rather than heads, belong inside a turkey. Keep your turkey on a roasting pan or try a Deep-Fried Turkey with Southern Rub recipe.
6. “The One Where Ross Got High”
When Rachel tries to make a trifle, the pages of her cookbook are stuck together, causing her to combine ingredients of two separate recipes. Only a completely clueless cook wouldn’t notice, and end up with a trifle with ladyfingers, jam, custard, beef sautéed with peas and onions, sliced bananas, and whipped cream. The only friend who likes it, unsurprisingly, is Joey of the insatiable appetite: “Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Good.” The reason Ross and Monica’s parents dislike Chandler is revealed: Ross blamed the pot-smoking smell in their college dorm room on Chandler.
7. “The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs”
What kind of person hates dogs? “They are needy, they are jumpy, and you can’t tell what they are thinking and that scares me a little bit,” Chandler says after he reveals that his dog allergy is fake. Well, there you go. We also find out Ross doesn’t like ice cream: “It’s too cold!” he says. The best quote in this episode is from Joey, however. “This is all a moo point…it’s like a cow’s opinion. You know, it doesn’t really matter. It’s ‘moo.’”
8. “The One with the Rumor”
Brad Pitt plays a bitter childhood friend of Ross’, and they admit they co-founded the “I Hate Rachel Green Club” in grade school, also concocting a rumor that Rachel was a hermaphrodite (okay, so some aspects of the show don’t quite hold up in 2019). Monica doesn’t want to make turkey this year because pregnant Rachel can’t stand poultry, Phoebe is vegetarian, and Chandler wants chicken. So, Joey insists he’d eat the entire bird, and proceeds to clean an entire 19-pound turkey on a dare from Monica. Of course, his crazy-huge meal has to be finished by a small slice of pie.
Takeaway: A wild card guest makes the evening more interesting, especially if he or she is hot. And whether or not you make an entire turkey, always, always have pie. But don’t be afraid to experiment with alternative birds.
9. “The One with Rachel’s Other Sister”
Speaking of wild guests, Christina Applegate plays Rachel’s other sister, and proceeds to insult every single friend at Monica’s Thanksgiving dinner. The crew has to eat very carefully on Monica’s new wedding china. Eventually, Chandler breaks a few dishes by accident with a baby bag. Also, Phoebe and Rachel forget to pick up the chocolate pie.
Takeaway: Don’t use your best dishware if you’re going to be crazy about it. Then again, use your fancy dishes. That’s what it’s for, especially on holidays. And again, never ever forget the pie. That’s just wrong.
10. “The One with the Late Thanksgiving”
It doesn’t begin well when most of the friends are late to Thanksgiving dinner, which Monica didn’t even want to prepare in the first place because she’s so stressed and tired. (Relate?) Pissed off, Monica and Chandler lock them out. The four of them stick their contrite heads through the door opened as wide as the chain lock, and when they try to get Joey’s head out (while stuffing the back of his pants with food) he bursts through, spilling most of Monica’s dinner all over the floor. Still, this final Friendsgiving ends well. (Shocking, we know.) When Monica hears from the adoption agency that she and Chandler are getting a baby, she cries out, “This Thanksgiving kicks last Thanksgiving’s ass!”
Takeaway: Don’t be late to dinner.
* Leftovers Bonus:
Season 5, Episode 9: “The One with Ross’ Sandwich”
What to do with your leftovers? Make the sandwich that drives Ross crazy. It has layers of turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing, piled high on fluffy white bread. Also there’s a not-so-secret ingredient: The Moist Maker—a bread slice soaked in gravy shoved in the middle of the ‘wich.
Related Video: 5 Friendsgiving-Approved Wines Under $20
Header image courtesy of Warner Brothers.