A Butterball Turkey Talk-Line Expert's Top Tips For Thanksgiving - Exclusive

If there's anyone who knows turkeys, it's Butterball Turkey Talk-Line supervisor Andrea Balitewicz. Working for the Talk-Line for the last seven years, Balitewicz has helped consumers with all manner of turkey mishaps, from forgetting the turkey needs to thaw until Thanksgiving morning to accidentally leaving the turkey in the garage for days at a time. As such, over the years, Balitewicz has compiled a long list of top tips for anyone planning to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. In a recent exclusive Mashed interview, she shared a few.

Things all start with thawing your turkey correctly — and, according to Balitewicz, questions regarding proper turkey thawing are some of the most-asked at the Turkey Talk-Line each year. She told us, "When we do our staff training, we spend a ton of time talking about how to tell consumers how to thaw a turkey. They don't realize that it takes so long because typically, people are not thawing that large of a piece of meat. The formula is one full day will thaw every 4 pounds of turkey. So if you have a 20-pound turkey, it could take five days to thaw in your refrigerator."

Since so many consumers aren't up to speed on their turkey thawing requirements, Butterball has dubbed the Thursday before Thanksgiving as "National Thaw Your Turkey Day," as a reminder to get that turkey from the freezer and toss it in the fridge. After your turkey is properly thawed, Balitewicz said, you can keep it in the fridge unthawed for up to four days before cooking.

Your Thanksgiving best friend

A lot more goes into safe turkey cooking beyond just proper thawing. Ensuring you cook your turkey to the right internal temperature is also important, and for that, you're going to need a thermometer.

Andrea Balitewicz said, "Your best friend besides the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line on Thanksgiving Day is a meat thermometer. That's the only accurate way to know that your turkey is fully cooked — to take the temperature with the meat thermometer. People will call [the Talk-Line] and say, 'Can't I just wiggle the leg? That's what grandma did.' Or, 'It looks done!' But you definitely have to take the temperature."

Balitewicz said your turkey should measure in at 170 degrees Fahrenheit in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh. The stuffing, if you include it, should also be 165 degrees. She additionally says a newer, digital thermometer is the way to go, though if you choose to use an older thermometer, you can be sure it's accurate with a quick ice bath. She explained, "What we recommend is to test the thermometer by using an ice-water bath. You fill up a glass container, or any cup, full of ice, and then you fill it with water to the top of the ice, and then you place the thermometer in to calibrate it and see the temperature. You want to make sure you have something accurate."

Need more turkey advice this Thanksgiving? You can call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800-BUTTERBALL. The Talk-Line is open through December 24.