Preparing a Thanksgiving meal can be nerve-racking. You're worried about the table setting, making sure you have enough food for all of your guests, and of course, there's the daunting step of cooking the main star of the show: the turkey.
That's where all of the chefs at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line come in. If you run into an issue or have a question as you're gearing up for your meal (or right smack in the middle of the process), you can call the Talk-Line to help get your problems solved.
SEE ALSO: Quick fixes for Thanksgiving dinner kitchen disasters
We talked to Talk-Line Chef Tony Seta, who's been an expert on the line for three years. One of the most memorable calls Chef Tony has received came from a newlywed. "She called in and she said it's my first Thanksgiving, and I'm cooking in an apartment oven," Chef Tony shares. "She wanted me to reassure her that the turkey was not going to expand as it roasted because it would stick to the roof of the oven, and I assured her that that would not happen, it would actually maybe even shrink up a little bit. So she was very happy to hear that and more at ease when we finished our conversation."
To produce a great turkey, Chef Tony says you should be mindful of the three T's:
The thawing of the turkey is probably one of the biggest questions Chef Tony says he gets. One way to properly thaw a turkey is to keep it in its packaging and place it onto a pan on the bottom part of the refrigerator. Chef Tony says one rule of thumb you have to think about is for every four pounds of meat, it takes one day of refrigeration. (So if I have a 20-pound turkey, it's going to take approximately 5 days for it to defrost.)
If you're more pressed for time, another way to thaw the turkey is to place it in a water bath, in the packaging, breast side down, cover it submerged in water and change the water every 30 minutes. Chef Tony says a rule of thumb here is one half-hour for every pound of meat. So if it's a 20-pound turkey, it will take approximately 10 hours for it to defrost.
The second factor Chef Tony looks at is temperature. Your oven temperature should be 325 degrees as the turkey roasts, it's important you roast the breast to 165 to 170 degrees. The thickest part of the thigh should get up to 180 degrees. If you're stuffing your turkey, the center of that stuffing should hit 165 degrees.
If the turkey starts to brown a little bit too quickly, you can take a sheet of aluminum foil, about the size of a notebook sheet of paper, and tent that over the top of the breast. According to Chef Tony, this will slow down the cooking process of the breast, so all of the temperatures will then come out at the same time.
One more tip Chef Tony shares is that you should purchase 1.5 pounds of turkey for each guest. "That will give you a sufficient amount of dinner, and also a little for leftovers," he shares.
If you need to give the Talk-Line a call, these are its hours:
Nov. 2 – Nov. 20: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. EST (Weekdays)
Nov. 21 – Nov. 22: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. EST (Weekend prior to Thanksgiving)
Nov. 23 – Nov. 24: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. EST (Mon. & Tues. before Thanksgiving)
Nov. 25: 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. EST (Wed. before Thanksgiving)
Nov. 26: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. EST (Thanksgiving Day)
Nov. 27 – Dec. 23: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. EST (Weekdays)
Dec. 24: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. EST (Christmas Eve)
In the spirit of eating what you feel like for the holidays, check out a list of high fat foods that are good for you:
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Our 9 best turkey strategies (you only have to pick one)
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The science behind the perfect apple pie