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Talking Turkey

Buying, prepping and cooking the perfect bird is not as easy as you might think. And no group knows more about turkey disasters than the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line.

Article
Donna Leahey
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
October 29, 2017

Muskogee resident Marlene Leahey has fond memories of a long-ago turkey disaster. “It may have been as far back as 1950,” she says. “My grandparents had a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins coming over, so they wanted a great turkey for the gathering.”

On Thanksgiving morning, they tried to put the magnificent bird in the oven, only to discover it wouldn’t fit. They couldn’t close the oven door. They conferred together and tried sealing around the door with aluminum foil and baked it for dinner. They set the table, with all the trimmings, and when they took the turkey out, it was all brown and pretty on the skin. But when they got to cutting into it, it wasn’t fully done. The family carved off pieces and put the turkey back in the oven to bake more.

Too bad for Leahey’s family, the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line wasn’t operational in the 1950s.

For more than 30 years, the professionally trained turkey experts who make up the Turkey Talk-Line have been answering turkey-related questions each holiday season. Open every November and December, their more than 50 experts answer more than 100,000 questions, for thousands of households around the United States and Canada. On Thanksgiving Day, the center estimates it will take over 10,000 calls.

And with over three decades of calls, there have been more than a few funny and bizarre stories to tell.

‍A woman from Colorado called in for help with thawing her frozen turkey. She’d kept the bird frozen in a snow bank outside.
‍A woman from Colorado called in for help with thawing her frozen turkey. She’d kept the bird frozen in a snow bank outside. 

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Size matters when it’s a turkey
A caller announced to the Talk-Line experts that since he couldn’t fit his turkey in the pan, he wrapped it in a towel and stomped on it until it would fit. The experts explained this was not the recommended technique.

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Yes. The answer is yes
Another fellow decided an electric carving knife just didn’t have enough ‘oomph!” so he took a chain saw to his bird. After he cut it in half, he called to inquire if there might be any adverse effects from the chain’s oil getting on the meat.

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The Turkey Talk-Line can only help with so much
A woman from Colorado called in for help with thawing her frozen turkey. She’d kept the bird frozen in a snow bank outside. However, while on the phone, she realized that it had snowed overnight and there were a lot more snowbanks. She hung up because before she could thaw her bird, she had to find the thing.

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That’s going to add an… unusual flavor
A first-time chef called in a panic. She had handled thawing her turkey like a champ, but when she was ready to prepare it, she rinsed it. With dish soap. It would not stop sudsing. It turns out that rinsing the turkey isn’t necessary at all.

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Might we suggest a scented candle?
A little girl had asked her mom if they could cook the turkey over several days because she liked the way the house smelled when the turkey was roasting. Unfortunately, the Talk-Line experts discouraged that idea since the turkey should only stay in the oven for a few hours.

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At least he didn’t just roll the dice
One lucky caller had won a turkey at the casino and brought it home with him on the bus. He was curious if it was safe to eat, even though it had thawed a bit in a transit.

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Holiday delivery
Another caller had good news and bad news. His wife had delivered a new baby on Thanksgiving. However, that meant the turkey sat in the refrigerator for a few days longer than planned. When the Talk-Line expert asked him how much it weighed, the new dad said, “The turkey? Or the baby?”

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Insecure in his machismo
An extra manly fireman from New Jersey called the Talk-Line to inquire where he should insert the meat thermometer into the turkey he was roasting for the firehouse. The expert explained the proper thermometer technique, then recommended he check out Butterball.com for free recipes. While he was interested, he was concerned that he would lose his macho man status if his fellow firemen found out.

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Don’t eat your unearthed fossil
A caller from Alabama had discovered in his father’s freezer a decades-old wedding cake top, a snowball from every time it had snowed in Alabama, and a turkey that had last been alive in 1969. He called the Talk-Line to learn the best way to cook the old bird. The expert told him the best method was the open roasting pan method, but that first, she suggested purchasing a fresher bird.

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I don’t have a cat
A parent called in to share this story from her newly married daughter’s first Thanksgiving feast. The families arrived early to help and discovered the turkey thawing in a sink of cold water covered with a dish drainer and rubber mat. When the father-in-law asked about the unusual arrangement, the new bride explained that was how her mother had always thawed the turkey. The bride’s mom laughed and explained, “Yes, but we have a cat.”

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That’s the way we’ve always done it
Another caller asked the Talk-Line for help, after explaining that she’d already cut the legs off. The expert asked why she’d done that. Turned out her mother had always done it that way because otherwise, it wouldn’t fit in their smaller-than-normal oven.

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Have you tried turning it the right way up?
The Talk-Line helped a new cook who was very disappointed with the amount of breast meat on the bird she’d just removed from the packaging. After asking a few questions, the expert determined the turkey was lying in the pan upside down. After turning it breast-side up, the caller was much happier with her turkey.

August 2019 Cover