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Thanksgiving Exclusive: Talking Turkey (and Training) with a Butterball Talk-Line Expert

— by mindflash


What training hot-line takes 100,000 calls each November and December, employs 55 trainers, and answers half a million emails?

That’s right — the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. This week, Mindflash got a few minutes on the line with Butterball turkey guru Janice Stahl to find out how she became a top turkey expert, how her fellow turkey experts stay up-to-date on turkey trends, and her top tips for tasty turkey.

Mindflash: How long have you been a Butterball Turkey Talk-Line expert?

Stahl: I’ve been with Butterball for four years. We have many experts who have been here for 15+ years – most people who start don’t quit!

Mindflash: How do you become a Turkey Talk-Line expert? What kind of training do you need?

Stahl: All of our experts are home economists, dietitians or chefs with four-year degrees. We all cook for a living, so we really do know what we’re talking about. New Talk-Line experts attend our training sessions called Butterball U for the first three years they’re on staff.  This really educates them on what our experts have learned over the years – everything from the best oven temperature, to pan size, to the best way to carve your bird. We have beautiful test kitchens, and we also try out recipes at home in our own kitchens.

Mindflash: What kinds of things do you test in the kitchens?

Stahl: We make sure we’re on top of all the new trends and recipes. If Martha Stewart or Alton Brown comes out with a new turkey recipe, we will get calls on those. We make sure we’ve tried new recipes that come out, so that we can give advice on them. We know someone will call to ask for help, and we want to be sure we’ve tested everything they might try to make.

Mindflash: What’s the goal of the Turkey Talk-Line?

Stahl: We’re here to help. We want to help people create traditions, and educate them about something they probably only do once or twice a year. We’re really trying to take the suspicion out of cooking a turkey.

Mindflash: Do you have a big “turkey bible” that you reference when people call?

Stahl: Most of us are pretty savvy off the top of our heads, but we do have a large turkey binder that can help us out if we need to reference it.

Mindflash: Help us train our readers on how to roast a turkey. What are your top turkey tips?

Stahl: I get asked this a lot! There are a few main things to keep in mind.

  • People ask how long it takes to thaw your bird, and the rule is 1 day of thawing per every 4 pounds.
  • For size, you should think about having 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. So, if you’re having 6 people total for dinner, you need a 9-pound bird.
  • Go ahead and get yourself a meat thermometer. It will help you make sure your turkey is cooked perfectly, not too dry or raw. Your thigh should be at 180 degrees and the breast should be at 170 degrees.
  • New cooks should make themselves a to-do list of ingredients they need. Even planning when things will go in the oven helps!
  • You don’t need to baste the turkey. You lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees every time you open the door. Basting just means your turkey will take longer!
  • And of course, if you run into trouble, call us! We’re here to help.

Mindflash: What’s your favorite way to cook a turkey?

Stahl: I love a deep-fried bird. It’s really juicy and delicious.  Butterball has a new electric counter-top fryer that’s totally safe – you don’t have to worry about burning your house down.

Mindflash: Have you ever tried deep-frying Oreos or Snickers bars or anything like that?

Stahl: No, but I want to! I have big dreams to try a chicken, or donuts.

Mindflash: What’s your best story from answering the Turkey Talk-Line?

Stahl: One time I was helping a new bride who was cooking for her in-laws for the first time. She really wanted to impress them. She would run upstairs and call me from the closet so that no one would know she was on the phone!

Mindflash: Thanks Janice, and all of the Turkey Talk-Line Experts who help home cooks make Thanksgiving special. To chat with a Turkey Trainer, call 1-800-BUTTERBALL. Yes, they’re open on Thanksgiving.

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