Turkey tips from a Butterball Talk-Line expert

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I am a home economist by trade and have used those skills when working on the Butterball Turkey Talk Line for more than 15 years. The Talk-Line began more than 40 years ago and has evolved into a large staff of food professionals, including home economists, teachers, chefs and registered dietitians, who are available by phone (1-800-Butterball), text (1-844 -877-3456), chat (from Butterball.com), social media, and Alexa devices every year from November 1 through December 24.

Every year we review the research to map trends and interests of chefs. This year we found that 90% of people are excited and looking forward to getting together with family and friends and 85% of them will have turkey on the table! As one of more than 50 Thanksgiving first responders at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, I’m standing by to help turkey cooks. The calls, texts, and chats are pouring in fast, and I can hear the growing panic as Thanksgiving Day approaches. Relax and exhale – these five tips will help you avoid holiday chaos.

1. Be sure to thaw your turkey ahead of time — but don’t panic if you haven’t.

“Yes, defrosting takes longer than we think.” This is one of my most common phrases when answering calls to the Talk-Line. I react calmly to cooks who are on the verge of panic.

2. You can cook a frozen turkey in no time.

If you completely forgot to defrost your turkey, you can cook the turkey from the freezer, but the cooking time is longer. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Remove the turkey from the bag. Place turkey breast side up on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan. Brush the skin lightly with vegetable oil. Place in the preheated oven.

3. Use this simple tool to make sure your turkey is moist, juicy and not overcooked.

The best way to cook a turkey that is moist and juicy is to invest in a meat thermometer. The thermometer tells you when you have reached the correct indoor temperature. You can use a roasting thermometer that stays in while the turkey cooks, or an instant-read thermometer that lets you check the temperature when you think the turkey is done.

Internal temperature recommendations vary, but Butterball recommends the following:

4. Follow these steps to make your turkey Look as good as it tastes.

For the prettiest bird, brush the turkey skin with vegetable oil, creating a turkey with an even, golden color. Place the turkey uncovered in the preheated 325°F oven so it can brown. Once it’s browned to your liking, cover the turkey breast with a tent of aluminum foil to prevent over-browning. Let the turkey rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. This will allow the muscles to relax and the juices to settle, which will create a much better cutting experience. If you cut the turkey without resting it, the juice will run out and the slices will become ragged and may shred.

5. Store your leftovers for days of delicious meals.

Once the meal is ready, the food should be put away within two hours. Once you’ve stuffed the turkey, remove any leftover dressing from the bird. Trim the meat from the turkey carcass and place the slices in airtight containers. If you have more leftovers than you eat in three days, put the rest in the freezer. Frozen dressing should be used within a month and frozen turkey and drippings should be used within two months. The frozen carcass will make great soup – plan to use it within two months.

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