How to cook the juiciest Thanksgiving turkey ever, according to an expert

It's hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is right around the corner! 

In just a few days' time, the smell of fresh apple pie and homemade cranberry chutney will be pervading from room to room, while marshmallows and sweet potatoes bronze in the oven. But at the center of it all, of course, is the Thanksgiving turkey, and it's a holiday staple that is as easy as it is quick to ruin. 

No matter if it's your first time hosting Thanksgiving or your 50th, there's a lot that goes into cooking a flawless bird, from the thaw time to the size. These tips from Butterball's Talk-Line experts can ensure your holiday feast goes off without a hitch. 

Tip #1: How to choose the right turkey 

Choosing a fresh or frozen turkey depends largely on preference, but also on how soon you plan on cooking your turkey. Make sure you get the right size turkey for your crowd as well—Butterball recommends 1.5lbs per guest for good portion sizes and leftovers.

RELATED: How to throw Thanksgiving dinner for $100

Tip #2: Remember the four T's 

Thaw: Thawing in the refrigerator is the recommended method. For every four pounds of turkey, allow at least one day of thawing in the refrigerator. Thursday, Nov. 21st is "Thaw Thursday," so get it out of the refrigerator to make sure your turkey is ready to cook on Thanksgiving Day!

Temperature: Always use a meat thermometer to determine when the turkey is fully cooked. Butterball has an easy-to-follow video to show how to check for doneness if you aren’t sure where to stick your thermometer.

Two-hour-Rule: Store leftovers in separate containers within two hours after cooking.

Three Days to Eat: Eat or freeze leftover turkey within three days.

Tip #3: The right way to stuff a turkey

Learn how to properly stuff a turkey, making sure to use only cooked ingredients and stuffing just before roasting, not in advance. If you stuff your turkey make sure you are also following food safety guidelines and checking for doneness in the stuffing as well.

RELATED: 10 perfect stuffing recipes for a hassle-free Thanksgiving

Tip #4: Food prep 101

Remember Food Prep 101: Practice good food safety procedures and wash hands often. Keep raw turkey and ready to-eat-food separate. Cook foods to proper temperatures to get a safe, tender and juice turkey.

Tip #5: Carving

Review the proper steps to carve a turkey before getting started—and don’t feel pressured to do it in front of everyone!

Tip #6: Don't be afraid to ask for help

When in doubt, call 1-800-Butterball to connect to the experts at the Talk-Line for the best advice! 

Butterball Turkey Talk-Line's funniest stories
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Butterball Turkey Talk-Line's funniest stories
Bundle of Joy

A flustered father called the Talk-Line a few hours after his wife had given birth to their first child.  He was concerned their turkey had been thawing in the fridge for too long while he was at the hospital.  When the staffer asked the man how much it weighed, he replied, “The turkey or the baby?” After determining the turkey’s weight and thawing time, she assured him he would be able to deliver a safe, delicious Thanksgiving dinner by the time mom and the baby returned home. 

Turkey Treasure

After discovering a turkey from 1969 in his dad’s freezer, an Alabama man called the Talk-Line to ask about the best way to cook the 30+ year-old bird. Although the Talk-Line staffer recommended the open roasting pan method to cook most turkeys, this time she suggested that the first step was to purchase a fresher fowl! This same gentleman also had in his freezer: the top of his wedding cake and a snowball from every snowstorm he'd experienced in Alabama.

Sun-Kissed Feast

Some holiday chefs take extreme measures to please all guests. A caller was e-mailed a photo featuring a turkey with a “bikini look.” As she was entertaining guests from the Bahamas, she asked Mary Clingman, 20+ year veteran, how she could create a tropical turkey.  Believe it or not, by using aluminum foil Mary suggested a way to make the turkey look like a sun goddess!

State Bird

When a Talk-Line staffer asked a caller what state her turkey was in—meaning how thawed was it, the caller responded with “Florida.”

It’s a Wrap

A proud gentleman called to tell the staff how he wrapped his turkey in a towel and stomped on it several times, breaking the bones so it would fit in his pan.

Upside Down Turkey Surprise

A disappointed woman called wondering why her turkey had no breast meat.  After a conversation with a Talk-Line operator, it became apparent that the woman's turkey was lying on the table upside down.

The Great Turkey Expansion 

A new bride cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time in a small, apartment-sized oven, wanted to make sure her turkey wouldn't expand during cooking (as baked goods do) and get stuck in the oven.

Frozen Turkey

A lady from Colorado calling about “how to thaw” her frozen Butterball.  She proudly shared the fact that her turkey was stored in a snow bank outside!  It had snowed the night before and it then dawned on her that she didn’t have a clue which snow bank her turkey was in.  At that point, the conversation was really over because she was now on a mission to go find her turkey. 

Turkey Help in a Pinch

One caller had always cut the legs off the turkey before putting it in the oven thinking that was how you had to cook a turkey.  She later learned that the only reason her mom had been doing that was because their oven had been so small that that was the only way to get the bird into the oven!

Cat’s Got the Turkey?

A newlywed’s parents arrived for their first Thanksgiving meal.  One of the dads noticed the turkey thawing in the sink in cold water with a dish drainer and a rubber mat on top of it all.  Her dad inquired why she was thawing the turkey that way.  She said – that was the way her mom thawed the bird.  The mother said – well, yes, but we HAD a cat!


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