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Thanksgiving Time


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At turkey boot camp, no need for a scrub brush

The Associated Press



Workers at Butterball's turkey-tips hot line are used to oddball situations:

_The woman who cleaned out her turkey with a scrub brush and asked if that was OK to do. (You don't need to do that.)

_People who thaw a turkey in the bathtub while washing their kids. (Don't do that, either.)

_A man looking for a quick way to cook his turkey who put it in the oven on the cleaning cycle. (Also not advisable.)

For Butterball, the nation's top-selling turkey brand, preparing for such out-of-left-field calls is serious business.

Each year, Butterball L.L.C. puts on Butterball University _ this year, five days of training for newcomers to the the hot line that answers 12,000 calls on Thanksgiving Day alone.

Dozens of 3-inch-thick blue binders await trainees, all of whom are armed with degrees in nutrition, food science, or home economics. The binders are so stuffed with turkey information they weighed nearly as much as the bird itself.

Through the nearly three decades the Turkey-Talk Line has been around, thousands of people have called in frantic moments to ask its experts everything. These binders anticipate it all: cooking temperatures, thawing techniques, cooking times, meat thermometers, carving knives, turkey sizes, presentation tips, food safety concerns and the eternal question of how much stuffing is too much.

"On Thanksgiving Day alone, there is never a point in time where we can stop. There's always somebody waiting to talk to us," said Nicole Johnson, who delayed her honeymoon in 2001 to work her first shift on the hotline.

The hot line (at 800-288-8372) functions year-round, mainly as an automated tip line. The goal is to position the nation's best-selling turkey brand as the expert in the field.

But each November and December _ prime turkey-eating time _ the hot line goes live. Fifty-five operators are on hand as the hot line receives 100,000 calls.

Before each live season starts, experts who have worked on the hot line for three years or less gather for several days of intensive turkey training from their turkey elders. Some of the women _ yes, they're all women _ have worked on the hot line since its inception.

The dozen or so newer workers also learn about the brand from marketers from Butterball, which is based in Garner, N.C. Butterball is a joint venture of Maxwell Farms, LLC/Goldsboro Milling Co. Inc. and pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc.

After a turkey overview that included information on buying and thawing turkeys, trainees get the day's main task.

Each is assigned a turkey and given directions to make it with a different method, from an open pan to a cooking bag. The idea is to be familiar with all the ways people might make a turkey. Even in the microwave.

And it's not just Butterballs they cook. The company trains specialists on different brands of turkeys, because anyone can call the hotline _ not just Butterball buyers.

They pore through recipes, noting what's popular each year, because that's what callers will ask about. But they end up making the basics: roasters, ovens, and even grills and deep-fryers, which have grown in popularity.

It's not just about cooking ability. Turkey-making is just as much about confidence. That's what Mary Clingman, director of the Turkey Talk-Line, likes to instill in her callers, many of whom are first-time turkey makers.

"As you go through these things step by step ... they're feeling better about themselves because they realize what they're going to do is not as bad as they thought it was going to be."


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You really are a Turkey expert.

My first thanksgiving after my wife left was an interesting one. Some friends were going to come over and we were going to have a feast. I was in charge of the turkey (Bad Move). Thanksgiving morning, I called one of the friend's that were going to come over. I asked what time I should take the bird out of the freezer. She laughed, swore, cackled and finally said the bird should have been taken out on tuesday and that we better make other plans for the main course.

I assured her that it would be ready. She assured me that it would be impossible. I told her to plan being over and I would deliver a cooked turkey. She laughed some more and hung up

Everyone came over in the mid afternoon to a house filled with the aroma of cooked turkey. My friend was very amazed. She was convinced that I was either making up the story or I found a restaurant to sell me a cooked turkey.

We all ate. It wasn't the best tasting turkey, but we ate. She took me in the kitchen and had to know how I did it. I pulled out this contraption from under the counter. It was a long slender device with a heating element. I explained that I used this to defrost the refrigerator. When I got off the phone, I looked around for possibilities and stumbled across this in the garage. It won out over a glue gun, charcoal briquettes, and an acetylene torch. I simply put this into the cavity of the turkey for about an hour. Not only did it thaw, but it cooked most of the turkey at the same time. I put it in the oven to brown the skin!!

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Reminds me of the time my Dad cooked a big turkey in a covered, waterless roaster.

Mid-way through the morning, people started commenting about how good it was going to be to finally have some crispy turkey skin. OOPS! the skin doesn't get crispy in a covered roaster. Never fear. My Dad, brother-in-law and I, who had started "celebrating" the holiday quite early, somehow stumbled upon the idea of sneaking into another room and applying our skills with a propane torch. The crispy skin was a big hit. :biglaugh:

edit: We captured it on video and still have a laugh or two watching it.

Edited by waysider
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Deep fried turkey has become real popular.

My Matty informs me he saw a partially frozen turkey put into the deep fryer and within a moment the fryer literally blew up and the turkey shot straight up in the air along with the hot oil. Luckily, nobody was hurt. Not even the turkey. They washed it off and decided to put it in the oven.

The instructions that accompany the deep fryer makes a specific point in bold red letters to NOT put a frozen or half frozen turkey in it. Turkey MUST be fully thawed. Tsk tsk, men and directions!!!

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  • 11 months later...
  • 2 years later...
  • 1 month later...

And some more from CFF's newsletter:

Thanksgiving Riddles

  • If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?
  • Why do turkeys gobble?
    Because they never learned table manners!
  • What kind of key has legs and can't open doors?
    A Turkey!
  • How can you send a turkey through the post office?
    Bird class mail!
  • What happened when the turkey got into a fight?
    He got the stuffing knocked out of him!
  • Why did the turkey cross the road?
    Because the chicken got Thanksgiving off!
  • Why did the band hire a turkey as a drummer?
    Because he had the drumsticks!
  • What sound does a space turkey make?
    Hubble, Hubble, Hubble!
  • How do you make gold soup?
    Throw in fourteen carats!
  • What's a Pilgrim's favorite kind of music?
    Plymouth Rock!
  • What do you call a 500-pound turkey?
  • How do little Pilgrims draw pictures?
    With crayon-berries!
  • Why don't turkeys fly?
    They can't afford plane tickets!
  • What's the friendliest vegetable on Earth?
    The sweet potato!
  • What's a turkey's favorite type of doll?

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