How A Butterball Turkey Talk-Line Expert Makes Her Thanksgiving Turkey - Exclusive

If you want to know how to cook the perfect Thanksgiving turkey, who better to tell you than the folks at Butterball? Since 1981, the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line has been dishing out tips and tricks to frazzled home cooks who call in wanting to know how to thaw or roast their turkey, or needing to know if the turkey's done or if they've committed some grave turkey mistake that will leave the family eating only sides for their holiday dinner.

Among the experts answering the phones at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line headquarters in Naperville, Illinois, is supervisor Andrea Balitewicz. She has years of experience beyond just turkeys, though. Balitewicz has worked in recipe development, in test kitchens, and on marketing teams for household name brands like Pampered Chef, Kraft Foods, and Jell-O. We recently spoke with Balitewicz in an exclusive interview to learn more about the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, as well as get her top tips for turkeys. We also, of course, had to know how she, as a pro, cooks her Thanksgiving turkey at home.

Tradition all the way

Andrea Balitewicz calls herself a traditionalist. Over the years, she's made a lot of turkeys, but she keeps coming back to doing things the old-fashioned way. She told us, "I don't have a convection oven, but my mom does. So I like to prepare the turkey at home, and then I'll transport it to her house and cook in her oven because I feel like her oven is better. That convection oven makes such a beautiful, golden-brown turkey and seals in the juices. It's absolutely delicious. I'm traditional. We've smoked a turkey, we've grilled a turkey, but I'm a traditionalist."

She also adds an extra step to her cooking process to allow for extra time in the kitchen and easier carving. She explained, "I always plan to have my turkey out at least an hour before I want to eat. You want to let it rest 20 to 30 minutes, at least, as that allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. It makes it so much easier to carve. The slices are beautiful. If you [slice] it right away, when it's so hot and steamy, the meat tends to shred and fall apart."

And like most of us, she's all about those Thanksgiving leftovers, but she cautions that your leftover turkey will last only three days at most in the fridge. If you're planning on using the turkey meat later in the season, freeze it, as it should last up to a couple of months when properly stored and frozen.

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.