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Turkey hotline is open to help fix your holiday bird blunders

For thousands of home cooks with turkey dilemmas, Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line comes to the rescue during the holidays.

The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line opened more than 30 years ago and employed six home economists who took 11,000 phone calls in the first year. Now, more than 50 Butterball experts respond to that many calls on Thanksgiving Day alone.

Butterball’s hotline, 1-800-BUTTERBALL, is open in November and December  (times vary). Calls are answered in English and Spanish. You can also live chat at or ask questions on Twitter or Facebook.

For 30 years, Carol Miller has been on the helpful end of Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line. On the other end of the line: home cooks in turkey turmoil. There are giblet mysteries to solve and questions about stuffing, timing and thawing.

According to Miller, the number one question after all these years is still about thawing. The easiest way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator, and the rule of thumb is one day in the fridge for every 4 pounds of turkey.

“It’s better if you call us early than if you call us on Thanksgiving Day,” Miller says. “On Thanksgiving Day, you probably have a problem.”

In addition to telling us how the Talk-Line works, Miller also gave us a little behind-the-scenes glimpse. Find out what really goes on (and why no question you have is a stupid question).

SheKnows: What’s Thanksgiving Day like for the Turkey Talk-Line?

Carol Miller: I am one of 50 people who man the lines, and Thanksgiving is the culmination of our season.

Each one of us is here for eight hours that day. It is a crazy day. Our office [in Naperville, Illinois] is a great big wide-open room, probably about the size of a basketball court. You can imagine what it sounds like in here when you get 35 to 40 people talking as fast as they can. The lines are constantly busy. We probably take 11,000-plus calls on that day.

SK: You must get some oddball questions, right?

CM: We do get callers who just don’t cook a lot. We had a young woman who had a large turkey and a small apartment oven. Her concern was that the turkey was going to rise in the oven. Turkeys do not rise. She was very glad to know that they actually get a tiny bit smaller.

SK: What helpful tips have you collected over the years?

CM: Many roasting directions say to put a rack under the turkey, and that gets the turkey off the bottom of the pan so that the air can circulate around. If you don’t have a rack that will fit in the pan that you’re using, get out four or five carrots and lay them in the bottom of the pan. Put the turkey on the carrots. This keeps the turkey off the bottom of the pan and the carrots will flavor the broth a little.

Another tip is to use a meat thermometer and make sure it’s accurate. Most people have a meat thermometer in the back of their drawer that they haven’t used since last Thanksgiving. To test it (for accuracy), boil some water. Make sure that when you put it in the boiling water it reads 212 degrees. Then you’ll be able to test that turkey.

You can’t look at a turkey to see if it’s done. You really need to take the internal temperature (Butterball advises that a turkey is done when the thermometer reads 180 degrees F deep in the thigh, 165 degrees F in the center of the stuffing, if turkey is stuffed.).

More turkey cooking tips

10 Ways you’re cooking your turkey wrong
The dos and don’ts of carving a turkey — 9 tips for the perfect bird
20 Genius turkey-cooking tips for a fail-proof Thanksgiving meal

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