Cooking a turkey may seem easy, but is it?
Not if the volume of calls to the Butterball turkey hotline is any indication! Carol Miller has been handling calls for 36 years for the company and she shared some common questions and answers she’s handled with “Today.”
- How big of a turkey do I need to feed my crowd?
“When we talk to people they tell us they want a generous serving, which makes sense; you don’t want to skimp," says Miller. "Most people are thumbs up on leftovers. So it boils down to about a pound and a half per person."
- How early do I need to thaw my turkey?
“The easiest way to thaw [a turkey] is in the refrigerator on a pan, breast side up. But it does take days. It takes one day for every four pounds of turkey. So if you bought a 20-pound turkey, that’s five days. So you might also have to do some cold water thawing, which is basically just putting it in a bath of cold water breast side down, and changing the water every 30 minutes or so. That’s more labor intensive, but it’s important to get it thawed out.”
- Help! My turkey is still frozen. What do I do?
If it's too late for cold water thawing, “you can put it into the oven frozen, but dinner may be two hours late," says Miller. "I tell people to have backwards Thanksgiving. Start with the pumpkin pie, then do the sides and the salads. If you have a 12 p.m. meal, and people are still around at 5, have turkey sandwiches. You have to laugh about it. And you’ve got a story for decades.”
- What is the most common mistake people make when cooking a turkey?
Cooking the turkey too long and cooking it by color. "You really need to cook by temperature with a meat thermometer.”
Miller also shared her best practices to keep in mind for food safety:
- Thawing: “You do not thaw at room temperature. You do not thaw in a sauna or dishwasher. You’ve got to keep it cold while you’re thawing it. Remember that because you don’t want it spoiled or to increase any bacteria."
- Temperature: “The thermometer is where people go wrong sometimes, too. They do sometimes under-cook and that’s not good.” Remember to make sure the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- Leaving food on the table. “When the meal is over, the turkey and gravy gets left on the table, everyone is having a good time. [Follow] the 2-hour rule, then get everything back into the fridge. "
- Leftovers: “What you cannot use in about three days goes in the freezer, and it can stay there for a month or two."
If you need expert help, call the Butterball hotline at: 800-Butterball.