Image Credit: Butterball

Winners are Samantha Cruz and Kathy Sykes*

My husband and I have been cooking turkeys for years and after today’s conversation I’m convinced that I need to rethink my battle plan for cooking this year’s bird. I had an opportunity to interview Mary C. a Butterball Hotline Specialist and boy oh boy did she know her stuff.

I thought it was so important for me to gather these tips for those of you cooking a turkey for the first time and have no idea where to start. Many of us are away from home for the holidays and can use alittle help as well.

In addition to the tips provided below by Butterball here are Army Wife 101’s tips for a good turkey:

1. Rub butter all over the turkey and place alittle up under the skin.

2. Let marinate with lots of poultry seasoning and garlic

3. I prefer the bag method of cooking.

 Below are just a few of the ideas and tips I left the conversation with from the Butterball expert:

Buying and Thawing The Turkey

* To determine the size of the turkey you will need to think about the amount of people you will have over to eat. Butterball has made it easy for you by having a calculator that tells you how big of a turkey you need.

* Many refrigerators are colder then people think so it is best to purchase your turkey about a week before and let it thaw out in your fridge because it can actually take a few days to fully thaw. Also many people think that just because a turkey is fully thawed that you need to cook it right away. The truth is you have up to four days to cook it, so it is not as if you will need to cook it right away. Always allow a good amount of time for proper thawing.

Cooking The Turkey

* I was surprised to find out that “basting” a turkey does not do anything to moisten the turkey. Basting would be the same as pouring water on a raincoat , it runs right off. Every time you open the oven door every hour or so you are loosing heat , essentially causing the turkey to take longer to cook. While basting makes for great drippings it’s definitely not the end all be all of a great turkey!

* For a perfect sheen spray alittle vegetable oil on the turkey or rub some olive oil on it.

* Butterball’s tried and true method of cooking a great turkey is to use a pan with sides between two to three inches high. While a rack inside the pan is very important it doesn’t necessarily need to be a metal rack. You can use a bed of carrots or ball up aluminum foil to create a base to lay the turkey on . The purpose of doing this is to raise the turkey from the bottom of the pan and allow better heat to flow all around the turkey.

How To Tell When a Turkey is Done Cooking &Preventing a Dry Turkey

* While all Butterball turkeys come with a timer, the definitive way to tell if it is done cooking is to use a meat thermometer.

* Many people cook turkey in a cooking bag and leave them in the oven thinking it won’t dry out. The truth is once a turkey has reached it’s done temperature , cooking it further only dries it out .

* The suggested temperature for a turkey is as follows:

Thigh meat- 175°-180°

Breast meat-165°-170°

*Because the darker meat takes longer to cook then the white meat, about half way through the cooking process, place a piece of foil over the breast area to avoid drying it out. Shielding the breast makes for a tender and juicy turkey.

*Poke the thermometer in the turkey in several different spots to ensure proper temperature is reached all over.

*The ideal temperature to roast a turkey is 325° while the bag method recommended temperature is 350°.

Both the roast method and steaming (bag) method are perfectly safe ways to cook a turkey.

Safe Storage Methods for Turkey

* Never put a whole cooked turkey back in the fridge because it takes to long to cool down and reach proper safe cool temperatures. You should always carve and cut the turkey into pieces and then place back in the refrigerator.

*Butterball goes by a rule that a turkey should be cut up and leftovers stored within two hours of removing it from the oven for safe consumption.

*Avoid leaving cooked meat sitting on the counter for hours.

The Butterball Hotline launched today for the holiday season and they are there to answer your questions and guides you through the turkey making task.

Call 1-800-BUTTERBALL to talk to one of they 50+ Turkey Talk-Line experts.

Image Credit:Butterball


In the spirit of the holidays Butterball is graciously allowing me to give (2) readers a chance to win a FREE Butterball Turkey for Thanksgiving.

How To Enter

Simply leave a comment telling me a favorite Thanksgiving tip of yours.

Giveaway ends 11/14/2011 and winner will be chosen via

Winner must respond within 48 hours of me receiving notification email or another winner will be chosen in their place.

Please leave a valid email address so that I may contact you if you are the winner.

Disclosure: Butterball provided me with a free turkey certificate and two certificates to facilitate a giveaway. All thoughts and opinions are my own and do not reflect or represent Butterball in anyway.

You can read more about about my disclosure policy here.





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147 Comments on *CLOSED*How To Properly Cook A Turkey Tips and Turkey Giveaway from ButterBall

  1. When I do turkey, I usually have to batches of Dressing!! I put the Stove top stuffing in the bird and i make cornbread stuffing and bake it in a pan. Sometimes my husband makes homemade cornbread stuffing like his grand mother used to make.

    I like putting oil mixed with my turkey seasonings on the skin and just under the skin as well. I also like to make turkery gravy with some of the drippings, but I have yet to completely master the art of homemade gravy so I alway make sure i have a smal jar of bought gravey as a back up incase i burn my homemade gravy! :)

  2. My favorite is home made cranberry sauce. I get the fresh bag and follow the directions and add orange juice and zest. Super simple and good.

  3. My favorite tip is, do a brine for the turkey. My ex husband (retired special aid for general in the army) made up brine just for me. it is easy to do and it makes the turkey come out SO moist and delish! I recomment every one try a brine!

  4. I make a crustless pumpkin pie. It’s so much easier and faster and no one likes the crust in my family anyway so there is no waste.

  5. I always make a turkey and a ham for those that are picky ;) I made my own recipe for the ham and its always a BIG hit!!

    1 small ham
    1 packet of dry onion soup mix
    1 can of chicken broth
    1 small jar of orange marmalade.

    Mix all ingredients together and let simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool, pour in a baking bag with your ham, and bake at 350 for 3 hours, turning it every once in a while. Promise…its moist and delicious!!! Yum!

  6. This is my first Thanksgiving on my own because I am from NC and moved to OK, where my husband is stationed. I am having to gather recipes from family and friends of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes, but I am also having to find recipes for my husbands favorite foods. I guess, in my inexperience, my tip would be to get some freezer proof containers to store leftovers, to spend time with those you love, give thanks for all you have, and invite people to share the day with you, especially when you can’t spend it with your family.

  7. During the holidays there are so many things to get done! Boy do I know this first hand! For Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner, I prepaere what I call my Holiday Menu Plan.

    1. I pick and write down the dishes I will be cooking (Along with the ingredients needed). Which Helps me with my shopping list when I go to the grocery Store.

    2. Then on this Holiday Menu Plan I figure out what recipes can be done a day or two ahead of time (ususally my desserts or appetizers). Saves you time and you can allot more time to other dishes.

    3. Preping your dishses ahead of time is key in my house! Again, looking at my Holiday Menu Plan, I highlight the vegetables that will be used and chop them up a day or two ahead of time, store them in ziplocs and freeze until I use, which saves time in the cooking phase!

    4. The main dish (like turkey, ham etc) should be prepared 2-3 days in advance to allow for the seasonings and fLavors to mingle prior tot he BIG DAY! ( I clean and season my turkey/ham, 2-3 days in advance YUMMM the flavors are unelievable after it is cooked.

    5. Do not be AFRAID to ask for help around the kitchen, the last thing you want to do is not enjoy the holidays becasue you have overworked yourself! Pass on those small task like chopping the veggies to someone else in the family!

    Finally, enjoy the smiles that you see on your Friends and Families face when they have taken a taste of the meal you just poured your heart and soul into.

    Happy Holidays~

  8. Our favorite Thanksgiving tip is to make stuffing and add sage flavored sausage and baby spinach before baking, it is a great way to sneak some greens to the kids!

  9. My best Thanksgiving tip is to cook all the sides and pack them up in the fridge the day before. Then the only things left the next day are the turkey and gravy! This means a relaxing day and not spending it entirely in the kitchen :-)

  10. We do our butterball turkey in a bag with lots of juice, it turns out great every year and the special thing for me is that my hubby is making the turkey <3 it!!!
    can't wait for thanksgiving to come around a special day in my life!

  11. Not sure if it’s a tip, per se, but I always season my turkey about two days in advance and let it sit in the fridge soaking all the seasonings up… makes for a DELICIOUS turkey! A lot of my recipes are my grandma’s old (Puertorican) recipes and they’re all super yummy and always a huge hit for whomever comes over for Thanksgiving at our house!

  12. I am a huge fan of the bag cooking method! Trims hours off of the cooking time and if the turkey is done before you are ready to serve, it will stay hot and moist in the bag until ready!!

  13. Prepare your deserts the day before. Also, you can prepare your casseroles the night before and cook them the day of. It saves on prep time and allows more time to visit with friends and family :)

  14. My favorite Thanksgiving tip is one of the tips I heard about what to do with some of the leftovers. Like turkey burgers, all you do is shred some turkey, add an egg, some stuffing, in a bowl & lightly blend them together. Then make patties & cook it like you would cook burgers, when done top the patties w/ gravy.

  15. I love to stuff my turkey with apples, lemons, and a stick of butter you’d be surprised the flavor it gives oh and a stick of cinnamon

  16. Our first Thanksgiving cooking with a baby in the house, I thought we could just do a turkey breast in the crockpot. I found a great recipe, and bought a large turkey breast. I did not realize, however, until Thanksgiving morning that the turkey breast would not fit into the crockpot, and it was still frozen, and I couldn’t roast it in the oven. We wound up finding, at the last minute, a place that had leftover smoked turkeys for sale. So, my Thanksgiving tip would be to make sure you have all ingredients and that your turkey breast is small enough to fit into your crockpot before the big day! :)

  17. Not really traditonal but we always have arroz con gandules for thanksgiving! its perfect with the turkey and he salsa my mom makes!


  19. Can’t give away all my secrets ;) But, amoungst all the other seasonings I use on my Butterball turkey, I use plenty of garlic salt. It makes for a super yummy turkey and the gravy made from the turkey drippings is to die for!

  20. Our friends and I usually fry our turkey(after a night of brining) for Thanksgiving!! Nothing like making a pully system out of a swing set to help you slowly drop your turkey into a pot of peanut oil!!! Always comes out perfectly crispy, tender, and juicy…..mmmmmmmmmmmmm :-D

    Add some mashed potatoes with panchetta, mozerella mixed in with bread crumbs on top and you’re GOLDEN.

    Awe MAN, I can’t wait for Thanksgiving!!!!

  21. Oh there are so many things, since there is so much that is done for Thanksgiving…I personally pick and choose what things are being made from scratch and what are “prepackage” though I wish I had the energy to make it all from scratch! When you have fibromyalgia, you just can’t do it! My one lifesaver is an electric roaster for the turkey, it frees up the oven for every thing else. The kids get put to work pealing potatoes and stuffing gets put in the crockpot. I “cheat” and but already chopped up onions/celery and other veggies. Rolls get purchased. But I be sure to figure out what items take the longest and work my way down in order so that everything is ready at the same time. You can also purchase (at bed bath & beyond) a special rack insert for your oven that “adds” shelves to give you more space to add more pies, dishes, etc to cook at once. A lifesaver when you only have one oven and 6 things to bake at once!

  22. My “tip”, cooking really early in the morning and eating by 1 pm. My mother does that and it’s vey nice to eat early and be done for the rest of the day :)

  23. Fried turkey for thanksgiving is the best! Not only does it come out moist with a crunchy skin, it also gives the man something to do on thanksgiving day rather then just sit on the couch and watch football while us wives slave away in the kitchen!!!! Frying the turkey is more of a man thing and makes them feel included ;-)

  24. My fav dish on thanksgiving is my aunts stuffing. She always makes it I love it will miss it this year though :(

  25. I have a small 1/2 in binder that I have only my Thanksgiving recipes in. I have them typed in large font and each one is in a sheet protector. This way if I spill anything, it wipes right up.

  26. I like to prepare/prep as many things the night before so on Thanksgiving I am not slaving in the kitchen all day and I can actually enjoy my company. I make all the pies, peel the potatoes, sometimes if the turkey is thawed I even put it in the pan and season it then cover with foil in the fridge till the morning.

  27. First I want to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving! Lets not forget what we are all thankful for! Im thankful for a wonderful family! An amazing husband, and a beautiful little boy I was just blessed with in September! Im also thankful for a roof over my head, and all the delishious things I plan on eating & enjoying on Thanksgiving!
    My tip is to prepare your main dish…turkey, ham, chicken, lasagna, etc… a day or two in advance to let all the flavors and seasonings ban together to make for one delishious tasting dinner! For some main dishes, it will allow the ham, turkey, etc… to become more tender as well.
    Aslo another little tip is to try ALL desserts! Yumm :)

  28. My Thanksgiving tip is that I prep my food days before the big day. My husband cuts up or dices all of the veggies, while I get some of the baking out of the way. We also brine our turkey so that it’s juicy. If you start early, you won’t feel so rushed and overwhelmed.

  29. I stuff the entire cavity of my turkey with a stick (or two) of melted butter and wall-to-wall onions, celery, garlic, and bellpeppers.

  30. I start prepping all the food (chopping, peeling, etc) the night before. Makes cooking thanksgiving dinner much easier and faster.

  31. My tip is to always adk your spouse if there are any single soldiers who will be alone on thanksgiving day and have them being these guys/girls home. Even if there isn’t enough food, knowing you’re sharing the holiday with them is the best! On a side note, I butter, garlic, pepper the underskin of the turkey and do the same on the outside
    Also put am apple onion inside the crevice of the turkey, it’ll make it so most!

  32. My favorite tip , well it’s not really a tip but a turkey deep fried in peanut oil is the best thing ever . I can’t wait for turkey !!!

  33. My Favorite Thanksgiving tip is the HAM
    Brown sugar

  34. When I think about Thanksgiving, the food we enjoy together as a family does play a great role…the turkey roasting all day in the oven, the stuffing from a recipe my mother taught me how to make long ago, the homemade pies all set in a row awaiting slicing later in the day, but as a military wife most often Thanksgivings are not spent with actual family members…instead they spent with ‘family’ we have grown to know and love wherever we are stationed at the time. We gather together to share the meal, laughter, and yes, much thankfulness that we are together another year. Children under our feet, for those who still have them, and phone calls from children who live on their own now for those of us older…Thanksgiving isn’t so much what we are eating as what we are doing that day…remembering to give thanks that we are together in a country where we are free, and our soldiers are fighting daily to protect that freedom…that’s the bounty of my heart and my home or my homeland.

  35. I’ve never cooked a thanksgiving meal alone but this year is my first (just my hubby and i) because we are at our first duty station . Im excited and nervous about either not cooking it well or burning it . I will attempt to make it the same way my mom makes it . She marinades it marsala style with some rice, stuffing, cranberry sauce ect. so im excited and good luck to everyone !! :)

  36. This is my first year hosting, so I only have a tip for green bean casserole! I use Cream of Chicken instead of Cream of Mushroom. Tastes great and non-mushroom eaters can still enjoy it.

  37. My favorite tip is to prepare all my side dishes(sweet potatoes,green bean casserole,etc…) the night before so that on Thanksgiving morning all they need to do is get baked in the oven,.It makes everything so much easier to have all the side dishes already prepared the night before. Also, all my desserts are prepared the night before.

  38. Always cook way more than you would normally cook, Being military you never know how many extra’s might end up showing up to dinner. We always have lot’s of friends that can’t always go back home, so we make sure we have enough extra food for those who may not get to go home to enough the holiday with their families…

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