Lessons learned after 20 years answering the Butterball Turkey ‘Talk-Line’


If you find yourself facing turkey problems this Thanksgiving, the Butterball Turkey “Talk-Line” is here to help.

The hotline allows vacation cooks to call and get expert advice. Since 1981, the service has expanded to include text messaging, online chat, social media, and even Alexa devices.

But the heart of the program is still the telephone, said hotline director Nicole Johnson.

“There’s something about that emotional support we provide our cooks when we talk to them on the phone,” she offered.

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In his 20 years of answering that phone, Johnson said the most common question he gets is how to defrost a Thanksgiving turkey.

The first method is in your refrigerator. It takes hours or days, 24 hours for every four pounds of meat, probably too long for anyone to call the helpline.

“If you’re listening now and haven’t started the thawing process, don’t worry. We understand,” Johnson said Wednesday. “You can go for the cold water bath method. It’s still safe, still acceptable. Leave the wrapper on the turkey, soak it in a cold bath, ideally change that water every half hour. This 12-pound turkey here would take about six hours using that cold water bath method.”

“Thhawing” is the first of Johnson’s “three Ts” for Thanksgiving, along with “thermometer”—180 degrees in the thigh and 170 in the breast—and the “two-hour rule.”

“From a food safety standpoint, you want to make sure you cut that meat off the bone, put it in a zip-lock container or bag, and put it in the refrigerator within two hours or less of it coming out of the oven,” she advised.


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Written by Natalia Chi

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