7 Tips for Easy Turkey That I Learned from the Ladies of the Butterball Hotline

updated Dec 31, 2020
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(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

Every holiday season the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line receives over 3 million questions by phone, email, and chat from turkey-anxious cooks. (You can call and ask about any turkey — not just a Butterball.) I visited their headquarters in Naperville, Illinois, and it was exactly how you’d picture it: There was an aroma of turkey, and everyone was on the phone or computer talking with callers or researching questions. There are big monitors on the wall that show the roasting time for any size bird. It’s turkey central!

So when Butterball tells you their best tips and tricks for making a turkey, you better listen up. Here are a few things I learned while I was there that might help you too this Thanksgiving.

Turkey Isn’t Tough!

Butterball’s take on turkey, just like ours here at The Kitchn, is that it’s just easy.

Butterball’s isn’t fancy or flashy, but it’s good. For all the importance and stress we place on making a turkey for Thanksgiving, it doesn’t have to be so difficult. As long as you buy the right size of turkey for the amount of people you’re hosting on Thanksgiving and remember to thaw the turkey well before the big day, you’re going to be OK.

That being said, there are a few tips and ideas about cooking a turkey from Butterball that I found rather helpful or interesting.

(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

7 Smart Turkey Tips from Butterball

1. Traditional roasting racks, while nice, are unnecessary.

Don’t own a roasting rack? No problem. There are plenty of ways to elevate your turkey in the pan. At Butterball University we shaped aluminum foil into a coil for the turkey to sit on. The Kitchn also has a couple other smart ideas if you need some alternatives to a roasting rack.

→ What To Do If You Don’t Have a Roasting Rack on Thanksgiving

(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

2. The size of your pan matters (but it’s easy to work with what you have).

At Butterball University we used a flat, shallow pan for cooking the turkey, about two to three inches deep. Shallower pans allow turkeys to brown better, instead of steam.

That being said, as Butterball explains, people have feelings about their pans for roasting turkey. You might have one your grandparents gave you, for example, that is much deeper than three inches. Have no fear! You can simply prop the bird up with your roasting rack (or alternatives to the roasting rack).

(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

3. Is basting the turkey really necessary?

After testing countless turkeys Butterball has concluded that you really don’t need to baste your turkey to make it moist. Opening and closing the oven door can let out heat if you’re not fast and Butterball suggests it’s not worth tying yourself to the oven.

This, of course, is also about preference and tradition. Do you baste your turkey? Do you think it’s necessary?

→ Is Basting the Turkey Really Necessary?

(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

4. Do you really need to adjust the temperature in the oven?

This is where things get a little controversial. The Kitchn’s roasted turkey recipe suggests that you preheat the oven to 450°F and then change it to 350°F when you put the turkey in the oven.

Other recipes indicate that you should change the temperature at various points in the recipe, but Butterball says it’s not necessary at all.

(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

5. The foil trick that makes sure you don’t overcook the turkey breast.

The challenge of cooking a whole turkey is making sure that the turkey breasts don’t overcook. There are many methods to make sure this doesn’t happen, including starting the whole cooking process by placing the turkey breast-side down for a period of time.

Butterball suggests that after the turkey has been cooking for 2/3 of the amount of time needed (depending on the size of the bird), that you cover the breasts with a small tent made of aluminum foil. This will slow down the cooking process of the turkey breasts.

(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

6. Did you forget to take out the giblets before roasting the turkey? Don’t worry about it.

Frequently people call the Butterball hotline and say they forgot to take out the bag of giblets in their turkey. The hotline experts explain that this does not affect the turkey in taste of health. You should, however, throw the bag of giblets out.

(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

7. Making turkey in an oven bag is fast and delicious.

We tested two ways to make a turkey at Butterball University: the traditional roasted turkey open on a pan, and turkey in an oven bag. I had personally never tried the oven bag method before, but was surprised by how moist the turkey turned out. Bonus: Using an oven bag means less time in the oven!

Have you ever called the Butterball turkey hotline? Did they help you out?