Cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving can be stressful. After all, many people don’t have much experience cooking a 12-to-15-pound turkey, plus the added pressure of trying to prepare the perfect holiday meal for family and friends can be nerve-wracking.
Fortunately, the folks at Butterball are ready to answer turkey cooking questions. Every November and December, thousands of people call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line — 1-800-BUTTERBALL or text 844-877-3456 — to chat with turkey experts and ask questions about thawing and cooking turkeys.
Butterball introduced its Butterball Turkey Talk-Line in 1981 to help cooks with vexing questions. Amazingly, that first holiday season, a staff of six professionals answered 11,000 calls, Butterball explains.
Today, the staff has grown to more than 50 food professionals. Interestingly, some of them have been answering calls to the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line for 20 or even 30 years, Butterball Turkey Talk-Line supervisor Andrea Balitewicz explains, according to Mashed.
The most-asked questions every year are about thawing and food safety, Balitewicz continues. Then again, there are always questions that — at first, anyway — seem unusual.
For instance, people call and say they misplaced their turkey for a while, Balitewicz said. They brought their groceries home, and during the excitement, the turkey got left in the car or in the garage. The question then becomes, is it safe to cook a turkey that has been in a parked car or the garage for a few days?
“Butterball is always going to err on the side of food safety,” Balitewicz said. “If the turkey has not been held properly, we will tell them that it’s best to discard the turkey.”
So, let’s jump to it. Here are the answers to some of the questions the team at Butterball Turkey Talk-Line hears most often.
How To Thaw A Frozen Turkey
“Safely thawing a frozen turkey is one of the most important steps in your meal prep,” Butterball explains. “Importantly, never thaw a turkey at room temperature.”
Here’s how to properly thaw a frozen turkey.
Refrigerator thawing is the preferred method, and it’s also the least labor-intensive method, Butterball explains. However, it does require more time.
Here’s what to do:
- Thaw the turkey breast side up in an unopened wrapper on a tray in the refrigerator.
- Allow at least one day of thawing time for every 4 pounds of turkey.
- Be sure to cook the turkey within 4 days of thawing.
Cold Water Thawing
Cold water thawing is a quicker way to thaw a frozen turkey, but it also requires attention, Butterball explains.
Here’s how to thaw a frozen turkey in cold water:
- Place the turkey breast side down in an unopened wrapper in cold water. Be sure the turkey is completely covered in cold water.
- Change the water every 30 minutes.
- If the turkey cannot be completely covered in cold water, rotate it every 30 minutes to ensure the turkey remains chilled.
- Allow 30 minutes of thawing time per pound of turkey.
How To Roast A Turkey
Roasting a turkey in the oven is a classic technique for first-time cooks and seasoned professionals alike, Butterball explains.
“Roasting a whole turkey is easier than you think,” Butterball continues. “Just follow these simple instructions for a fresh or thawed turkey:”
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Drain all juices and pat the turkey dry with clean paper towels.
- Place turkey breast side up on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan that is 2 to 2.5 inches deep.
- Turn the turkey’s wings back to hold the neck skin in place. This position will help hold the turkey in place.
- Brush or spray the turkey’s skin lightly with vegetable or cooking oil.
- Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the turkey’s thigh (but be sure not to place the thermometer against the bone).
- Place the turkey in the oven.
- When the turkey is about two-thirds cooked, loosely cover its breast with tin foil to prevent overcooking.
- The turkey will be fully cooked when the meat thermometer placed in the turkey’s thigh reads 180 degrees and the temperature in its breast is 170 degrees.
- Place the turkey on a platter and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Pro Tip: Critically, cook time varies by weight. You can use Butterball’s turkey cooking calculator to help plan accordingly. That calculator can be found here.
How To Grill A Turkey
“Although it’s not the most common method, grilling can be a fun way to take a delicious turkey dinner outdoors,” Butterball explains. As an added bonus, grilling the turkey outside frees up oven space for other dishes.
Here’s how to grill a turkey on a gas grill.
- Prepare the grill for indirect heat cooking following instructions in the owner’s guide.
- Preheat the grill on high temperature for 10 to 15 minutes with the lid closed.
- Remove the turkey’s giblets and neck, drain all juices, and pat the bird dry with clean paper towels.
- Turn the turkey’s wings back to hold its neck skin in place and tuck its legs.
- Brush or spray the turkey’s skin with cooking or vegetable oil.
- Turn the grill’s temperature down to approximately 350 degrees.
- Place the turkey breast side up on the cooking grate over the grill’s drip pan, and close the grill cover.
- Importantly, depending on your grill’s burner arrangement, you may need to turn the turkey over about halfway through the grill time to ensure it’s cooked evenly.
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure the turkey has been cooked thoroughly. The turkey’s internal temperature in the thigh should be 180 degrees while the breast temperature should be 170 degrees.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that turkeys weighing between 10 and 16 pounds will take between 2 and 3 hours to grill.
Know Before You Cook
You can find Butterball’s answers to many common questions, including how to carve a turkey and how long you can safely eat leftovers, here.
Of course, if you run into problems, you can always call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line experts at 1-800-BUTTERBALL or text them to chat. That number is 844-877-3456.
Once the turkey has started to cook, you can relax. While you’re doing that, be sure to watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. You can find everything you need to know about the parade in 3 New Balloons At This Year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — Plus Who Will Perform.