Lessons learned after 20 years answering the Butterball Turkey 'Talk-Line'

If you find yourself facing turkey troubles this Thanksgiving, the Butterball Turkey "Talk-Line" is here to help.

The hotline allows holiday cooks to call and receive advice from experts. Since 1981, the service has expanded to include text, online chat, social media, and even Alexa devices. 

But the heart of the program is still the telephone, hotline director Nicole Johnson said.

"There’s something about that emotional support that we provide our cooks when we talk to them on the phone," she offered.

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File: Trainees stand behind their cooked turkeys awaiting critique during training for Butterball talk-line employees on October 20, 2010, in Naperville, Illinois. (Chuck Berman/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

In her 20 years of answering that phone, Johnson said the most common question she gets is: How to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey.

The first method is in your refrigerator. That takes hours or days, 24 hours for every four pounds of meat – probably too long for anyone calling the help line.

"If you’re listening now and you haven’t started the thawing process, not to worry. We understand," Johnson said Wednesday. "You can opt for the cold-water bath method. It’s still safe, still acceptable. Leave the wrapper on the turkey, submerge it in a cold bath, ideally change that water every half-hour. This 12-pound turkey right here would take about six hours using that cold-water bath method."

"Thawing" is the first of Johnson’s "three T’s" for Thanksgiving, along with "thermometer" – 180 degrees in the thigh and 170 in the breast – and the "two-hour rule."

"From a food-safety perspective, you want to make sure that we slice that meat off the bone, get it in a zip-lock container or baggie and get it in the refrigerator within two hours or less of leaving the oven," she advised.

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Butterball, headquartered in Garner, N.C., is the largest producer of turkey products in the U.S. It operates six processing plants located in North Carolina, Arkansas and Missouri.

How to call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line for Thanksgiving tips: 

  • Call 1-800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372)
  • Text (844) 877-3456
  • Go to butterball.com and enter a live chat or email an expert
  • Reach out to or check out special Butterball tutorials on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest channels.
  • Those with an Alexa-enabled device can simply say, "Alexa, ask Butterball…" to enable the skill and hear trusted Talk-Line experts share answers to pressing turkey questions.

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This story was reported from Tampa, Fla. Kelly Hayes contributed.