Let’s Talk Turkey

Thanksgiving is probably the most challenging culinary event of the year for even the most seasoned of cooks.  There are family traditions to be upheld; whoa be it to the unfortunate kinfolk that thought adding cumin to their great grandmother’s cornbread dressing recipe was a good idea.


But what probably causes the most angst among cooks young and old is the cooking of the turkey.  Butterball, the name synonymous with turkey, has a hotline that receives over 10,000 calls on Thanksgiving Day.  Here are some the more unusual inquiries (with answers) that they’ve received over the years.




Q: So I’m looking at a turkey from 1969 sitting here in my father’s freezer… any tips on the best way to cook a 30-year-old bird?

A: There is no saving such aged meat. Butterball suggested the man “throw out the old turkey and buy a new one.”

Q: How do I roast my turkey so it gets golden brown tan lines — in the shape of a turkey bikini?

A: Outline your turkey with aluminum foil in the shape of a bikini, before cooking.

Q:  How do you carve a turkey when all of its bones have been broken?

A: A proud male caller called the Talk Line to boast of his genius method to get a large turkey to fit in a small pan: He wrapped his turkey in a towel and stomped on it several times, breaking the bones so it would fit in his pan. If your turkey won’t fit in your roasting pan, Butterball recommends a different cooking method, like deep frying the turkey. “Or, buy two smaller turkeys in place of a large one.”

Q: I carved my turkey with a chainsaw… is the chain grease going to adversely affect my turkey?

A:  For so many reasons, don’t try this at home. “Instead, let your turkey rest at least 20 minutes after cooking to make carving easier,” the company suggests. “Then, use a carving knife you would find in your kitchen.”

Q: Why does my turkey have no breast meat?

A: A disappointed woman called wondering why her turkey had no breast meat. It became apparent that the woman’s turkey was lying on the table upside down. Butterball recommends cooking your turkey breast side up in an open roasting pan. “This will give you a flavorful turkey and make it easier when transferring your turkey to a plate.”

Q: It’s my first Thanksgiving and I have a tiny apartment-sized oven… how much will my turkey expand when cooking?

A: This new bride was afraid her turkey would expand and get stuck in the oven. Turkeys don’t expand, but Butterball recommends cooking in a pan with at least 2” sides so your turkey juices don’t spill over during the cooking process.

Q: How do I get my turkey to stop sudsing? Is a soapy turkey recoverable?

A: A first-time Thanksgiving chef called after she had washed her turkey with dish soap. Butterball doesn’t recommend rinsing the bird before cooking — or washing it with soap. “Simply pat the extra juices dry with paper towels before stuffing or roasting the turkey.”

Q: How do I baste a pre-basted turkey?

A:  There’s really no need to baste a turkey — any additional butter or oil squirted on the skin rolls off like water on a raincoat. Butterball turkeys come pre-brined. But if you can’t help yourself, Butterball suggests basting only a couple times during the cooking process so you don’t continuously let out the heat of the oven.

Q: My turkey thawed on my lap… can I eat it?

A: One male caller hit the jackpot on Thanksgiving and won a turkey at the casino. He brought it home on the bus, and it thawed on his lap in transit. Butterball says the safest way to thaw your turkey is in the refrigerator. As a guideline, it takes one day of thawing time for every four pounds of turkey.