I’ve Worked the Turkey Hotline for 7 Years. Here’s My Best Advice
Hi. This is Chris with the Jennie-O Turkey Hotline. So you’re calling with a question about the turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner—oof, are those your kids screaming in the background? Or your in-laws? I get the sense we’re not just talking about the turkey. It’s about the whole event, with the cooking, the cleaning, the family dynamics….So I’m not going to make this too transactional, like, “This is the cooking time; this is the thawing time.” I’m going to take a minute to connect with you. You’re not alone here. People are going through this.
Take a deep breath. If it’s your thing, have some wine. Often, what’s a difficult experience now turns out to be a fun family story later, and I love it when people call back to share how it worked out. It might take a few years for it to become a funny anecdote and not a source of stress and shame, but hopefully it’s something down the road you will laugh about. And there are work-arounds for just about everything. Even if you realized you forgot to pull the turkey out of the freezer until Thanksgiving morning there’s very little that can’t be managed with a sense of humor and an improvisatory spirit.
Here are the most common questions I get as a turkey therapist: How much turkey do you need for your family? One to one and a half pounds per person, but feel free to go bigger if you’ve got ambitious plans for leftovers! How can you tell if the turkey is fully cooked? Three things: meat thermometer, meat thermometer, meat thermometer. You want the temperature to reach 165 to 180 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. How much time does that take? Depends on the size of your turkey, but it ranges from about three and a half to five and a half hours. And the big question: How do you thaw it in time? The best way is to plan ahead and thaw it in the refrigerator between two and five days depending on the size of the turkey. But you can utilize a day-of cold-water method if necessary and still be sitting down for dinner before midnight. And no, your grandmother’s time-honored trick of rolling turkey in dirt is not a food-safe way to thaw it. Neither is utilizing your car’s heated seats. Yes, those are both questions I have fielded on the line.