Turkey Talk

How to get this year's bird to be the best ever

    Can I cook it in a convection oven? What if my power goes out? What do I do with the giblets?
    No need to get your feathers in a bunch. The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line experts have answered a lot of questions in the past 28 years. In fact, the phone line receives 100,000 queries each year.
    Specialists field questions on everything from how to transport a turkey cross-country to what to do when the dog eats a part of the bird before it hits the oven.
    "There is a lot that can happen that people don't plan for," Mary Clingman, director of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line (1-800-BUTTERBALL), said. "Thanksgiving is absolutely the most popular holiday meal of the year - and people want a picture perfect turkey."
    While many of the questions stay the same year to year - questions about proper thawing techniques and cooking methods are, not surprisingly, high on the list - Clingman has seen plenty of turkey trends come and go, from Thanksgiving meals made entirely in the microwave to deep frying whole birds.
    "Turkey is such a simple thing to cook, yet it's amazing how much detail we can go into," Clingman said.
    Whether you're cooking in a convection oven or on the campfire, the Butterball turkey experts have a solution - but classic oven roasting is still the best way to get that picture-perfect bird.
    When advising callers, operators rely on the "Three T's of Turkey" - thawing, thermometers and the two-hour rule.
    Want more great turkey advice? Visit www.Butterball.com for cooking tips, recipes and helpful meal planning tools like the Butterball Turkey and Stuffing Calculator. Just enter the number of guests to find out how much stuffing and turkey you'll need to feed the whole crowd.

Use A Thermometer

    "Turkeys are very young and tender. They don't need to be overcooked," Clingman said. "Use a meat thermometer. Cook the turkey just until it's done. Then get it out of the oven."
    Cook turkey in a 325 degree oven in an open pan. The sides of the pan should be no more than 2-inches high to allow for uniform cooking. Too high of a pan will lead to overdone breast meat.
    For optimal safety, place a meat thermometer in the center of the stuffing and cook to 165 degrees. Cook breast meat to 170 degrees and thigh meat to 180 degrees.
    "Two-thirds of the way through cooking, make a foil tent over the breast meat," Clingman said. "The breast meat won't get overcooked, but the thigh meat will be done. That's one of the neat little pearls of advice that we offer callers."

Thaw Properly

    Turkey is perishable, so proper food safety is essential. After all, you don't want your guests going home sick. Turkey must be kept cold when thawing. Never leave your turkey sitting on the counter at room temperature. Instead, keep it in the refrigerator or in a cold water bath.

Mind the 2-Hour Rule

    Let the turkey stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving, then serve immediately. Once the bird is out of the oven, you've got just two hours to get the leftovers in the fridge to maintain optimal food safety.
    "Turkey is perishable, so make sure you treat it with safety in mind," Clingman said.

For advice on the go, sign up for the Turkey Talk-Line mobile text service to receive weekly turkey tips, thawing reminders and shopping list alerts for new recipes on your cell phone. Text the word  "TURKEY" to 36888 from your mobile phone or log onto Butterball.com and enter your mobile phone number.

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