My First Butterball University

I’m addicted to turkey. It’s true, I’ve already made four turkeys this year and there will be at least that many more before New Year’s.

This is a turkey

 Thankfully, there is no twelve-step program and Butterball has become my biggest enabler.

Over the years I have learned a few things about making a turkey. Not only do I deep fry my turkeys for the major holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas), I also roast a few during the season to ensure I have plenty of turkey goodness to store in the freezer and tide me over until the season begins again.

I was thrilled when I was contacted by Butterball and asked to attend Butterball University.

What do you mean you haven’t heard of Butterball University? It’s the training given to the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line experts (1-800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372)). You don’t think they let just anyone answer your turkey related questions, do you?

Yes, they thought it was funny, too.

I mean really, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to talk about turkey for 9 hours? Well, perhaps it takes a special breed, but Butterball knows how to find them and I was lucky enough to have the chance to meet a few wonderful turkey experts.

You should have seen me sweat when Mother Nature threw a wrench in my plans. She caused a canceled flight, a missed connection, and one heck of a Chicago-style traffic jam, but I was on a mission and I had turkey on my radar. Do you think a little wind and cold could prevent me from participating in 9 hours of turkey focused talk? Not a chance.

I was in heaven.

These experts take their turkey seriously and I was thrilled to accept the invitation. You see, the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line has been going strong for more than 30 years. The Turkey Talk-Line has grown from 6 home economists answering 11,000 questions in 1981 to this year’s team of 50 experts who anticipate helping more than 1 million cooks this holiday season, not only over the phone, but via, Facebook and Twitter, too.

This room won’t be quiet for much longer. Soon it will be buzzing with noise and cooks across the country call with all kinds of turkey related questions.

I have been cooking turkey for years and I have pages of notes. Where else can you have intense discussions of stuffing versus dressing?

We learned about buying, thawing, and safely prepping the turkey. Later we moved on to cooking methods such as cooking in an oven bag, foil wrapped, open pan*, cooking in a convection oven, using a covered roasting pan, an electric roaster, and even – dare I say it – how to microwave a turkey. Trust me, I know that microwaved turkey sounds like heresy and while it’s not my first choice for cooking turkey, it definitely wasn’t what I expected. And no, it was actually a pleasant surprise.

*Butterball recommends the open pan method of roasting a turkey at 325°F.

It wasn’t all talk. Butterball knows that you can’t really talk turkey until you have a few under your belt. Each of the participants was assigned a turkey and a cooking method. I was given the cutest, little turkey I have ever seen. I didn’t realize they came small enough to cook in a toaster oven. Did you?

Look, the thermometer is almost bigger than the drumstick!

Did you know if you buy a very small turkey there isn’t a lot of fat development which can lead to drier meat. Don’t worry, there are ways to compensate, it’s just something to keep in mind when determining your cooking method.

During the hands on portion of the training, there were demonstrations of how to place the thermometer in the thigh to ensure an accurate reading

After lunch we returned to the classroom and learned even more. This time we covered outdoor cooking methods: deep frying, grilling on a charcoal or gas grill, smoking turkey, and using an oil-less fryer. I’m excited to try grilled turkey and I think this just may be the year I break down and buy a smoker.

Finally it was time for the turkey line-up, carving, and of course tasting.

See the itty bitty turkey? I told you it was tiny.

How do you sum up nine hours of intense turkey education?




  1. Posted November 7, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink | Reply

    That sounds like a great experience. I’ve never roasted a turkey myself and I’m sure I could learn a lot from it. How many pounds was your little turkey?

    • Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink | Reply

      My little turkey barely checked in at 10lbs.

  2. Posted November 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Looks like fun! My husband is the turkey chef in our house. He’d love that!

  3. Posted November 7, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanksgiving is my favorite meal of the year. Turkeys are RAD!

  4. Posted November 8, 2011 at 12:01 am | Permalink | Reply

    I have heard of the Turkey Help line but never really thought about who was on the other end. Thank you for sharing this inside glance 🙂

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