Turkey Talk: The Top Things You Need to Know When Cooking a Turkey 

Whether it is your first time cooking a turkey or you are a seasoned pro, time-honored turkey advice from the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line never gets old.

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  1. Give yourself enough time to thaw your turkey.

Don’t count the day you will cook your turkey as one of the thawing days.  If you put your Thanksgiving turkey in the refrigerator on National Thaw Day (the Thursday before Thanksgiving) most turkeys will be properly thawed and ready to cook by Thanksgiving. If you want more help, watch this “How To Thaw” video from Butterball.

  1. Choose how to cook.

The easiest way to cook your turkey is to roast it in the oven.  Oven roasting requires no special equipment and cooks of all skill levels can produce a superb tender and juicy turkey this way.  Butterball has a how-to video on roasting, and many other cooking methods.

  1. Safety in numbers.

You need to make sure your turkey reaches 140⁰F within four hours so your turkey is food safe. Because of this safety measure, it is not safe to use methods that require overnight cooking at low temperatures or a high temperature followed by turning the oven off.

  1. It is not all about the Baste

You really don’t need to baste your turkey. Although basting was once standard practice, it has not been found to add moisture to your turkey and Butterball turkeys are pre-basted for you. It will add to your cook time by draining your oven of heat each time the oven door is opened.

  1. When it’s done, it’s done.

The most accurate way to determine when your turkey is done is to use a thermometer.  You will want to check the turkey in two places, the breast and thigh. Make sure the breast registers 175⁰F and the thigh registers 180⁰F.  Often the breast area comes up to temperature before the thigh because it sits up high in the pan and has more exposure.

  1. No cover required

If you want your turkey to be a golden brown color with crispy skin, then do not cover it.  When you completely cover your turkey while cooking you are essentially steaming it.  If you want to shield the breast area of the turkey during the latter stages of cooking, simply make a tent using Reynolds® aluminum foil (about the size of a piece of notebook paper) and loosely fit it across the breast area.

  1. Make ahead and reheat options.

You can make your turkey ahead of time and reheat if your schedule or oven space requires you to do so.  It is important to get the turkey de-boned, properly cooled and refrigerated to keep it food safe. Reheating can be done by slicing the turkey and moistening with broth or gravy- or warming the turkey cut into quarters or large sections.

  1. You can- and should- cook turkey throughout the year.

Turkey is not just for the holidays- it’s also a great main course to be served winter, spring, summer or fall.  It is often inexpensive around Thanksgiving, so make room in your freezer and stock up for use throughout the year.

The turkey, and you, will be the heroes of Thanksgiving Dinner if you keep these tips in mind. Never fear if you have any questions or concerns—if anything comes up, just call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800-BUTTERBALL. We’ve been here for you for more than 30 years and are here to help you have a wonderful celebration.

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