• Sun. Nov 28th, 2021

Having trouble with your Thanksgiving turkey? An expert shares tips to cook it better and how to avoid common mistakes


Nov 25, 2021

(CNN) – Whether this year is your first time to cook a turkey or you are an expert, mishaps can happen in the kitchen, especially at the last minute.

That’s where Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line comes in. For the past 40 years during the holidays, these hotline experts have been on hand to help people fix their turkey problems.

Karen Wilcher has been a Turkey Talk-Line Specialist for 10 years and shared her best tips and tricks for cooking a delicious turkey every time.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Thanksgiving turkey, one of the traditions for these holidays in the United States.

CNN: If someone has never cooked a turkey for Thanksgiving before, where should you start?

Karen Wilcher: The easiest way to cook your turkey would be to roast it in the oven at 160 degrees Celsius. If you have a frozen turkey, you need to make sure it is thawed by Thanksgiving. It takes about a week for a turkey to thaw, so it is recommended that people move their frozen bird to the refrigerator on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, which we like to call National Thaw Day.

If you forget to defrost it the day before, at this point we recommend the water bath method. This is where you dip the turkey in its original packaging in cold water. You should change the water every 30 minutes until it is completely thawed. For a turkey up to 12 kilograms, you can properly defrost it for 12-15 hours using this method.

Once thawed, take it out of its packaging and remove the package of giblets. Next, dry the turkey with a towel, apply a little olive oil and put it on a rack to roast in the oven. Butterball has many recipes online for seasoning options.

CNN: How long does it really take for a turkey to cook in the oven?

Wilcher: A 5 to 9 kilogram turkey that has no stuffing should take 3 to 3 1/2 hours to cook, while a 10 to 12 kilogram turkey should take 4 to 4 1/2 hours to bake. If it has stuffing inside, add 45 to 60 minutes more of cook time.

Spraying it with water is also unnecessary. Every time you open the oven door to sprinkle water on the turkey, you are slowing down the cooking process. The liquid doesn’t necessarily penetrate the skin, so it doesn’t do long.

This year at Butterball University we cooked a grilled turkey so that everyone could become familiar with the grilling process. That’s another way to cook a turkey if you want to free up the oven or if your oven is not available. I have been roasting my turkey on a charcoal grill for two years and had a fabulous turkey for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving dinner will be more expensive this 2021 0:30

CNN: Why should people cook their turkey at 160 degrees Celsius?

Wilcher: We know we can safely cook it at 160 degrees Celsius. Many recipes add additional steps, such as starting at a high temperature and then lowering it part of the cooking process. It is such a busy day with so much to do that it is often easy to forget to lower the temperature.

Also, we do not recommend raising the temperature to speed up the cooking time because it could dry out the breast meat.

CNN: How does someone know that the turkey is done?

Wilcher: It is important to use a thermometer to measure your turkey’s temperature rather than looking at it. Half of the filling should be 74 degrees Celsius; the breast should be at 76 degrees centigrade and the thigh area should be at 82 degrees centigrade. If you are confused because you don’t know what the parts of a turkey are, Butterball has a diagram on their website.

CNN: Some people may be interested in frying their turkey for Thanksgiving. What are some tips to stay safe?

Wilcher: Make sure the turkey is completely thawed. If you are using propane gas, make sure you are outdoors and in a well-ventilated area to protect yourself and others.

Before submerging the turkey, be sure to measure out the correct amount of oil so it doesn’t splatter when you add the bird. One way to do this ahead of time is to measure with water first to find out how much oil you need to submerge it. Fried turkeys cook much faster than a roasted turkey, about three to four minutes per pound.

Thanksgiving Day Parade Returns 1:04

CNN: After 10 years working as a specialist on the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, what are some of your favorite caller stories?

Wilcher: I got a call a few years ago that someone was cleaning your mom’s freezer and found a frozen turkey. It was easily 10-15 years old and they wanted to know if they could cook it. Truth be told, it was probably fit to eat, but I guess after 15 years you might not want to share it.

One of my other favorite stories was about a gentleman whose wife had asked him to help her thaw a turkey using the water bath method. She also knew that one of the things she had to do was bathe her children. Then he thought he could do both at the same time. Needless to say, we don’t recommend it.

Finally, there was a man who put his turkey on the terrace to thaw and discovered that a raccoon had nibbled on a part. Although Thanksgiving is an opportunity to share your dinner, I think you may not want to share it with a raccoon.

One thought on “Having trouble with your Thanksgiving turkey? An expert shares tips to cook it better and how to avoid common mistakes”
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