Turkey emergency? Don't panic!

Sunday, November 19, 2006
Photo illustration by Diane L. Wilson

The turkey's still not done after cooking in the oven for more than four hours.

The stuffing is dry, and you've burned the pumpkin pie.

Your Thanksgiving guests, who are waiting to be served dinner, are impatiently starring your way.

You nervously glance back at them, and wonder if you've ruined Thanksgiving dinner.

Don't panic. Close the oven door. Grab the telephone and dial a turkey help-line expert.

There are at least 10 national 1-800 numbers to call for help with Thanksgiving meal preparation. Some even have turkey experts available for 12 hours Thanksgiving day.

Marty Van Ness is a 15-year turkey expert with Butterball's Turkey Talk-Line. The talk-line experts are available to answer almost any question on holiday turkey preparation.

"We get calls for anything and everything," Van Ness said from the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line call center in Naperville, Ill.

The most common question is how to thaw a turkey, Van Ness said. The Butterball turkey experts recommend thawing the turkey in the refrigerator for three to four days in advance or placing it in cold water several hours before cooking it.

Van Ness doesn't recommend thawing a turkey using an electric blanket.

"I had a gentleman who wanted to know what temperature he needed to set his electric blanket at to thaw out his turkey. It was a creative technique -- but of course I told him that wouldn't work," she said.

Another caller once told Van Ness his ex-wife made delicious stuffing but she took the recipe with her after they got a divorce.

"He was just calling for a good stuffing recipe," Van Ness said with a laugh. "We get very unique calls."

The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line originated 26 years ago, and is open between November and December.

Turkey experts take about 100,000 telephone calls during the two-months of operation. The week of Thanksgiving, the talk-line receives about 5,000 to 10,000 calls per day.

"It's a busy time of year for us but we'd rather people call in to get advice than cook their turkey wrong," Van Ness said.

The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today, and turkey experts will give out free recipe tips.

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

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