The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line has, for more than 30 years, been the go-to resource for even the most seasoned of cooks wanting to make sure their Thanksgiving feast is perfect, or to snatch it from the jaws of disaster.
It’s Thanksgiving morning, you’re in charge of the Thanksgiving meal, and you discover your turkey is still frozen. Or you’re wondering how you will know that the turkey is completely done. Or you’re wondering how to recreate an authentic Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving. Who ya gonna call?
The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line (1-800-288-8372) has, for more than 30 years, been the go-to resource for the most seasoned of cooks wanting to make sure their Thanksgiving feast is perfect, or to snatch it from the jaws of disaster.
During Thanksgiving week, the Talk-Line receives an average of 10,000 calls a day, Jan Allen, one of the Butterball experts, told Millionaire Corner in a phone interview.
The most common question called in right about now is how to thaw a turkey. “We recommend one day in the refrigerator for every four pounds of turkey, Allen said. A larger turkey, then, could take over a week.”
For those who need a quick(ish) thaw, Allen directed submerging the turkey in the original wrapper breast side down in cold water, which should be changed every half hour. “It takes a half-hour per pound,” she said, and added with emphasis, “You never want to leave a turkey out at room temperature.”
And so, it’s Tuesday; where should we be at this point in the feast-making process? According to Allen, the turkey should be thawed or almost thawed. “You should be thinking about the entire menu if you haven’t done so already. One thing people like to do is get their stuffing ingredients together. We suggest you get the onions and celery chopped up and refrigerated and measure out the dry ingredients, but don’t combine them or sautee until Thanksgiving morning.
To cook ahead of time or not: “We don’t suggest that because I think when most of us walk into a home we like the aroma of a turkey fresh out of the oven,” Allen said, “But we do talk to many women in their 80s who are having the whole family over, and I’m always thinking, ‘God bless her that she is still doing this,’ so if will make it easier to roast the turkey ahead of time and then reheat (the more power to her), except I can’t help thinking, ‘Why aren’t the young people taking over for her?’”
On Thanksgiving morning: Take the thawed turkey and the roasting pan to the sink,” Allen recommended. Open the turkey wrapping and drain the juices into the sink. Remove the neck bone out of the body cavity and the giblets out of the neck cavity. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. The pan should have a roast rack at the bottom. “If you’re stuffing the turkey,” Allen said, “now is the time to do so. Some people like to make it in a separate casserole dish.”
The most common question: How long to roast? The typical size turkey is 10-18 pds, Allen noted. Unstuffed takes 3-31/2 hours to roast at 325 degrees. With stuffing, it can take an hour longer. “We do recommend using an open pan method of roasting,” she said. “It gets the most predictable results. The turkey comes out golden brown and looks like the ones on the magazine covers with nice crispy skin.”
The most unusual cooking question: Somebody called for advice and I didn’t have the answer because we’ve never tested it. They wanted to have a Thanksgiving like the first Pilgrims. They wanted to go to a park and bury the turkey in the ground and cook it with hot rocks. There’s probably a method to do it but we don’t have capabilities in our lab and we don’t recommend anything we haven’t tested.
The essential three T’s for every Thanksgiving feast:
- Make sure the turkey is totally thawed
- Make sure you have a meat thermometer. The turkey should be 180 degrees in the thigh when it’s done, or 170 if you are cooking just a breast. The stuffing should be 165 in the center.
- The two hour rule: From the time the turkey comes out of the oven until it’s carved and back in the refrigerator should be no longer than two hours. Do not leave it on the countertop, lest bacteria forms, Allen cautions.
Preparing a Thanksgiving meal is not for the faint of heart, but help is as close as the phone or the Internet. For more Thanksgiving cooking tips, Allen recommends the Butterball website’s first ever search engine.
Have a happy and hearty Thanksgiving (and send leftovers!)
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.