Ever heard of the Turkey Talk-Line?
I found it today as I was looking for tips on roasting my Thanksgiving turkey. It turns out that each year the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line handles 10,000 calls from people like you and me. They have a circuit board of 50 experts with one goal: helping amateurs roast the perfect holiday turkey.
So, straight from the experts at the Turkey Talk-Line, here are your top five turkey tips.
1. THAW EARLY AND OFTEN
The Talk-Line has heard it all when it comes to thawing out turkeys. They’ve heard of people swaddling their frozen bird in an electric blanket. And in one memorable instance, someone tossed a turkey into a bathtub alongside her toddler twins. Not recommended.
A good rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours for every four pounds of turkey to thaw in your fridge. So if you want to thaw a 20 pound bird, it’s going to take five days to thaw in the refrigerator.
But if you are caught on your back foot on thaw time, then you’ve got another option. You can try the cold water bath method. Keep your turkey in its wrapper and put it breast-side down in a sink filled with cold tap water. Then change the water every 30 minutes. It reduces the thawing time to about 30 minutes per pound.
2. IT SHOULDN’T TAKE ALL DAY
Let’s say you’ve got a 12-pound turkey to feed eight adults. If it’s fresh or fully thawed and you roast it breast-up in an open pan at 325°F, the entire process will take from 3 to 3 1/2 hours. So you can put the bird in at noon and have it on the table by 4 in the afternoon. (But if you get cornered by your aunt in the kitchen, it might take longer. You should factor that into your calculations.)
If you’re unsure what size turkey to buy, the Talk-Line recommends 1–1.5 pounds of turkey per person. But if that math is too difficult, then there is an app for that. Just go to butterball.ca/en/tools. (But know that I am judging you.)
3. INVEST IN A REMOTE MEAT THERMOMETER
It’ll be the best $30 you’ll spend this holiday season. There are two numbers you’re looking for: 165°F in the center of the breast and 180°F in the deep thigh. The remote thermometer allows you to keep track of the temperature without opening the oven door and allowing heat to escape. That just increases your cook time. But if you have a remote thermometer, you can put your turkey in the oven and forget about it until your thermometer beeps to let you know that it’s done. That leaves you free to focus on the side dishes. (And your uncle’s new lap dog.)
4. GO AHEAD AND STUFF IT
There was a big hulla balloo a few years back on the topic of stuffing. It was determined by the Powers That Be, that stuffing should never be cooked inside the bird. Well don’t believe it! If stuffing the turkey is a tradition in your family, then there is no need to stop. From a food safety perspective, if you’re going to stuff the bird, do so immediately before roasting. It’s going to take a little bit longer to cook a stuffed turkey, but just test to make sure that it is 165°F in the center of the stuffing and you’ll be golden. Just like your perfectly cooked turkey.
5. SO WHAT IS THE SECRET TO A PERFECTLY COOKED TURKEY?
To achieve a beautifully colored, crispy-skinned bird, the Talk-Line recommends blotting it dry and then brushing it with vegetable or canola oil before popping it in the oven. To ensure that the meat is moist and tender, don’t overcook your turkey. This is key. And rather than opening the oven repeatedly to baste, which can increase your cooking time, they recommend keeping an eye on that remote meat thermometer instead. Basting serves no great purpose, so you can leave that baster in the back of the junk drawer. As one of the dietitians at Butterball explained,
“The skin of a turkey is as if you or I were wearing a raincoat. So, you can baste it all you want but it’s just going to get on the outside of the skin; it’s going repel and drip down. It’s not necessarily going to penetrate the deep muscle.”
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT
Now you know everything there is to know about roasting the perfect bird. But on the off chance that you still have questions, the Talk-Line is there to serve.
(But please, don’t ask if you should thaw your turkey in a youngster filled bathtub. It will make them cry.)
To reach the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, call 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372) or text 1-844-877-3456.
And here’s one of the remote thermometers I wrote about: