Thanksgiving is coming up next Thursday here in the States, and for many of us, that means turkey. I don’t know about you guys, but roasting a big bird is not something I have much experience with. I’m not even sure I could fit a turkey in my NYC oven, to be totally honest—this is why my relatives in the suburbs host holidays and not me. Well, there are many reasons. I mean, they all live near each other—I’m the one who decided to go live on an island of crazy-people. Seriously, though, just imagining twenty people squeezed into my tiny living space (which is actually pretty large for an NYC studio but this place is not real life) makes me break out in a massive stress sweat.

Most of us have at least one “Thanksgiving gone hilariously wrong” story, so to help make sure that said massive bird is not the star of your horror today I’m featuring some turkey tips from Nicole Johnson, director at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, to help you get ready for Thanksgiving.

Nicole Johnson from Butterball University

Nicole Johnson, Director of Butterball University

What is the most common turkey mistake people make?

The most common mistake cooks make is not allowing enough time to thaw the turkey. Cooks do not realize it takes 1 day for every 4lbs of turkey so if you buy a 16lb turkey you need 4 days to properly thaw the turkey.

What should someone do if they’ve forgotten to thaw their frozen turkey?

If you forgot to take your turkey out of the freezer in time, try thawing more quickly by submerging the turkey in cold water. Leave the bird in the wrapper, place it front side down in a tub or sink of cold water, change water and rotate every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes of thaw time for every pound of turkey.


How soon before you plan to cook it should you prep your turkey? (thawing, brining, etc.)

Thursday, November 16 is National Thaw Thursday, so get it out of the freezer and into the refrigerator to make sure your turkey is ready to cook on Thanksgiving Day. Thawing in the refrigerator is the recommended method. For every four pounds of turkey, allow at least one day of thawing in the refrigerator. Butterball turkeys do not require any brining or basting, but should you want to brine your turkey follow the instructions and enjoy.


What is the optimal time and temperature-per pound ratio?

For the best results, we recommend cooking your turkey at 325 degrees. Cook time will vary per pound. For example, an 18 pound turkey will cook for 3-3.5 hours unstuffed or 3.25 to 4.5 hours.  Please visit for more details on your specific turkey! And the best way to check for doneness is with a meat thermometer – 165 degrees in the center of stuff, 170 degrees in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh.


How do you know it’s done?

We recommend that you always use a meat thermometer to determine when the turkey is fully cooked. The turkey should reach 180° F in the thigh, 170° F in the breast and 165° F in the center of the stuffing. To properly insert the meat thermometer, place deep into the lower part of the thigh muscle, but not touching the bone.  If you are a visual learner, check out our website for our How-to-videos! We have a how-to-video for testing doneness!


Any tips for speeding up cooking time?

To speed up cooking time, don’t open your oven throughout cooking. Every time you open the oven door, your oven decreases in temperature by about 25 degrees. Or if you want to cook your turkey faster explore other cooking techniques like the Butterball Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer or a convection oven.


How should turkey leftovers be stored?

We strongly advise storing leftovers in separate containers within two hours after cooking.


What are some of the most creative ways you’ve heard of to use leftover turkey?

We love using our all of our turkey leftovers to make sandwiches, but to add a twist we add a few other leftover dishes from the Thanksgiving meal to round out the sandwich (like cranberry sauce). You can also whip up this day-after Thanksgiving breakfast frittata.

Is there anything else it would be really important for people to know about cooking turkey? 

A few extra tips to get you through the day include:

    • Prepping: If you don’t have a rack, crunch aluminum foil into a coil or use vegetables like carrots to keep your turkey off the bottom of the pan.
    • Cooking: To prevent the breast from overcooking, place a piece of lightweight foil loosely over the breast and top of the drumsticks when the turkey is 2/3 done
    • Carving: Prior to carving, let turkey stand 15 minutes to allow the turkey juices to set and stuffing temperature to rise to an ideal temperature. Also use a freshly sharpened, straight knife to make carving hassle-free.

Thank you, Nicole!

Butterball Thanksgiving Turkey

Photo credit: Butterball

If you need to talk to a turkey expert, the Butterball Turkey Talk Line is now open! Last holiday, they answered more than 10,000 calls on Thanksgiving Day. They also added a text help line for the first time answering 8,200+ texts last November.

The Butterball Turkey Talk Line can be reached at: Call: 1-800-Butterball;




This has been another installment of the Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party, where randomness is the name of the game. Thanks to Amanda for hosting.



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