(WEHT) – As we leave Halloween behind and enter turkey season, many people panic when it comes to cooking Thanksgiving dinner, especially the turkey.
What some people may not realize is they are not alone! The Butterball Turkey Talk-line is a resource many depend on during the holiday season for advice to ensure their turkey turns out perfectly tasty. The hotline was started 41 years ago in 1981 by six women home economists and has now evolved to 53 seasonal members in 2022 answering questions through phone calls, emails and texts.
Bill Nolan, a retired chef, is a supervisor of the hotline and has been a culinary educator for more than 25 years. He tells us the most common turkey mistake people make is also the number one question asked- how much time does it take to thaw out a turkey?
He says the best way to thaw a turkey is slowly in your refrigerator. “The turkey will thaw at rate of 4 pounds per day, so we recommend starting to thaw your turkey out a week before Thanksgiving.” He says the Thursday before Thanksgiving is known as ‘National Thaw Your Turkey Day’.
When asked about the strangest question the hotline has ever gotten, the culinary educator explained a call he had about a person who forgot they had cooked their turkey upside-down and thought they got a turkey with very little meat.
Nolan says Butterball has plenty of resources to help their customers other than the hotline. The Butterball website is filled with different ‘how-to’ videos that cover everything from picking out your turkey, to thawing, cooking it and even how to handle leftovers.
A surprising fact many don’t know is the length of time turkey leftovers last outside of the freezer. Nolan says turkey that is plastic wrapped and stuck in the freezer can last for one to two months but in the refrigerator, it will only last three days!
The Butterball supervisor tells us there is a new tool this year to help people manage their time and still cook a good turkey without panicking. “The Thanksgiving Comfort Calendar can be printed or downloaded for free off the Butterball website. It offers emotional support, practical tips and a day-by-day guide for the month of November to help you prepare for Thanksgiving.”
When asked about the past popular prank where young adults asked their parents how long it would take to cook a turkey in a microwave, the answer was surprising. According to Nolan it is possible to cook a turkey in a microwave oven, it just takes longer but still can turn out delicious if all the right steps are followed.
Nolan says the number one priority is always food safety. He suggests starting to check your turkey’s internal temperature about two-thirds of the way into cooking it. “The breast meat should be at least 170 degrees while the dark meat,” he suggests, “will be the tastiest when it’s cooked to 180 degrees.”
When asked about the types of people who call the hotline, he says all sorts of people from grandmas checking up on new turkey trends, to middle-aged people making sure they were doing it right, to first timers needing a lot of advice. “When the pandemic broke out, many people were staying home for Thanksgiving,” Nolan says, “and were cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time.
The people who work the hotline are all food professionals who go through extensive training in the month of October in order to work the hotline. Nolan says a hotline requirement is working through Thanksgiving but that doesn’t seem to be an issue as many enjoy the job and still find time to celebrate. Butterball Turkey Talk-line members who tend to have a tenure of 16 years usually celebrate the holiday the day after or when they get off shift.
According to Nolan, his favorite part of working the hotline is helping people on both sides of the line. The former chef says he loves working with new members. His piece of advice for them? “Don’t be afraid to ask questions because it helps build relationships.” Nolan has been working the hotline for six years and still learns something new every once in a while. He says the most important tip for Thanksgiving is to be prepared.
More information about the hotline and how to cook your Thanksgiving turkey can be found at the Butterball website.