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Talking Turkey

Top Tips for a Top-Notch Turkey
Published on November 12, 2020


The Butterball Turkey Talk Line is a Thanksgiving tradition in the States. The Talk Line was founded in 1981 by six home economists, who answered calls from members of the public looking for advice on cooking turkey for the holidays.

The service even found its way on to prime time TV, when it was referenced in an episode of The West Wing, where President Bartlet called what was referred to as the 'Butterball Hotline' to ask for some timely seasonal help.
The UK will be under lockdown restrictions when Thanksgiving comes around this year, which means that more of us will likely be celebrating the holiday at home. Despite the unusual nature of 2020, a recent survey found that 87% of Americans are committed to celebrating Thanksgiving this year. So if you're embarking on a home-cooked turkey for the first time, or are just looking for some handy tips, here is some advice fresh from the Turkey Talk Line.

1988 Turkey Talk Line staff Some of the Turkey Talk Line experts in 1988

Butterball's Tips for a Perfect Thanksgiving

Fresh or frozen turkey? Fresh turkeys need no thawing and are ready to cook. Frozen turkeys can be purchased weeks in advance, but require several days of thawing before roasting.

Butterball recommends refrigerator thawing. For every four pounds of turkey, allow at least one day of thawing in the refrigerator. For example, a 12 lb. Butterball turkey would require 3 days in the refrigerator to thaw.

No time to thaw? Try thawing more quickly by submerging the turkey in cold water. Leave the turkey in the wrapper, place it in a tub or sink of cold water and allow 30 minutes of thaw time for every pound of turkey, ideally changing the water every 30 minutes.

What size turkey to buy? Allow two pounds of turkey per person for generous servings and leftovers. Check out the Butterball.com website for new recipes and fun ways to incorporate that leftover turkey meat.

Remember home food safety tips when handling turkey:
• Wash hands often.
• Cook to proper temperature. Don't forget your best friend on Thanksgiving Day - your meat thermometer! It will register 180 degrees in the thigh and 170 degrees in the breast for best eating quality.
• Refrigerate cooked turkey promptly to reduce temperature to below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Before roasting, turn the turkey's wings back to hold the neck skin in place. This levels the turkey in the roasting pan to encourage even cooking, and with the wings out of the way, makes carving easier.

Prepare stuffing just before placing in the turkey, using only cooked ingredients. Loosely stuff neck and body cavities of the completely thawed turkey, and do not tightly pack stuffing into turkey.

Butterball recommends the Open Pan Roasting Method to consistently create a tender, juicy and golden brown turkey. Use a shallow pan about 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep, and always use a flat rack so the turkey cooks evenly. No turkey rack? Lay 3-4 large, clean raw whole carrots in the pan underneath the turkey.

Place a piece of lightweight foil loosely over the breast and top of the drumsticks when the turkey is 2/3 done to prevent overcooking the breast when using the open pan method.

Always use a meat thermometer to determine when the turkey is fully cooked. Temperatures should reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit in the thigh and 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the center of the stuffing.

Nicole Johnson Nicole Johnson, Director of the Turkey Talk Line

Turkey Talk Line Classic Calls

Nicole Johnson, Director of the Turkey Talk Line, shares some memorable calls …

Favorite Callers: My favorite callers are in the grocery store, walking up and down the aisles as we help them prepare for their Thanksgiving meal! The call might last 2-3 minutes or even upwards of 30 minutes! Whether it's deciding on fresh vs. frozen, the size of their turkey or even talking about other side dishes, we are here to help them celebrate the good!

Bundle of Joy: A flustered Father called the Talk-Line a few hours after his wife had given birth to their first child. He was concerned that their turkey had been thawing in the fridge too long while he was at the hospital. When asked how much it weighed, he replied "the turkey or the baby?" After determining the turkey's weight and thawing time, we assured the new Father that he was on the right track with his Thanksgiving turkey!


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