Here are some tips for choosing, defrosting, and cooking your Thanksgiving turkey (plus a hotline to call).
It’s time to talk turkey. Preparing and cooking a turkey is not as easy as you’d think, especially for first-timers. So who better to ask for help than the largest (vertically integrated) turkey producer in the United States?
The phone lines at Butterball’s Turkey-Talk Line are once again open for assistance — just call 1-800-288-8372. Experts can answer all of your turkey questions, no matter how challenging. The service is FREE for all — Butterball customer or not. You can also reach them online via e-mail, text, social media, and live chat.
This year, the talk line will be available on the following days and times:
Nov. 2 – Nov. 20: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Nov. 21 – Nov. 22: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Nov. 23 – Nov. 25: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Nov. 26: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Nov. 27 – Dec. 23 (weekdays): 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Dec. 19 – Dec. 20 (weekends): 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dec. 24: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
We also have some great tips from the Butterball turkey experts for selecting, defrosting, and cooking your Thanksgiving turkey.
What size turkey should I buy?
How long does it take to defrost a turkey?
Great question – and a good one to ask early enough to do something about it.
Butterball says one day of thawing in the refrigerator per four pounds. (So that’s three days if you buy a modestly sized 12-lb turkey.) Put the turkey breast side up, in an unopened wrapper on a tray.
If you are a last minute kind of person, you can thaw the turkey in cold water for at least 30 minutes per pound. Put the turkey breast down in the unopened wrapper, completely submerged in water and change the water every 30 minutes. Why do you need to put the turkey breast side down if you thaw in water, but breast side up if you thaw in the refrigerator? That’s a question best left to the experts.
How to cook your turkey
There are many methods for cooking turkey, including frying one in oil. But by far the most popular method is roasting. Here are Butterball’s instructions.
How to roast a turkey
- Preheat oven to 325° F. Drain juices and pat dry with clean paper towels.
- Place turkey breast side up on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2½ inches deep.
- Turn the wings back to hold the neck skin in place. (Tucking the wings will help stabilize the turkey in the pan and when carving) Brush or spray skin lightly with vegetable or cooking oil for best appearance.
- Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh without touching the bone. When the thigh is up to temperature, and if the turkey is stuffed, move the thermometer to the center of the stuffing.
- Place your turkey in the oven.
- When the turkey is about ⅔ done, loosely cover breast and top of drumsticks with a piece of foil to prevent overcooking.
- Your turkey is done when the temperature with a meat thermometer is 180° F in thigh and 165° F in breast or stuffing.
- Lift turkey onto platter, and let stand for 15 minutes before carving.
How long does it take to cook a turkey?
Don’t rely solely on the little pop-up gadget some turkeys are sold with. By the time it pops up, your turkey may be overcooked. The best way to know how long you should cook your turkey is to consult a cooking time chart like this one at Butterball. It has cooking times for both conventional and convection ovens.
The time it takes to fully cook a turkey depends on the weight of the bird and whether or not you have cooked it with stuffing. (Most experts these days discourage cooking your turkey with stuffing inside, but there are still cooks who won’t do it any other way.)
Above all else, make sure you have a working food thermometer so that you can check the temperature in several places before you pull it out of the oven to let the turkey rest. And make sure your turkey is thoroughly defrosted (see above) before it goes into the oven.
Have a food-safe, happy, and fun Thanksgiving.
You might also be interested in these Thanksgiving articles at Living on the Cheap: