Last-minute Thanksgiving turkey tips from Butterball experts

The poultry pros joined "GMA" on Thanksgiving Day.

November 23, 2023, 7:21 AM

Let's talk turkey.

This Thanksgiving, "Good Morning America" has home cooks covered with the expertise of poultry professionals, chefs Javier Reyes and Samantha Woulfe from Butterball's Turkey Talk-Line.

PHOTO: Butterball Turkey Talk Line experts Samantha Woulfe and chef Javier Reyes.
Butterball Turkey Talk Line experts Samantha Woulfe and chef Javier Reyes.
ABC News

Top turkey questions answered

What happens if the turkey isn't fully thawed out by now?
For every 4 pounds of turkey, the Butterball team suggests thawing it for 30 minutes, fully submerged in a cold water bath. They noted that you should never thaw a turkey at room temperature, and instead use the refrigerator or cold-water methods. A thawed turkey can stay in the fridge at 40 degrees or below for up to four days before cooking.

What if there is ice inside the turkey?
If there are chunks of ice, remove those first and then cook as you normally would. Be sure to use a meat thermometer to ensure the turkey reaches the proper temperatures.

Do you need to wash your turkey?
No. Per, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, rinsing raw poultry puts people at risk of germs that cause foodborne illness. Instead, simply drain the juices and pat dry with clean paper towel.

What should you use if you don't have a roasting pan?
There's no need to rush out and purchase an expensive roasting pan to cook turkey this Thanksgiving. Butterball suggests trying their open pan roasting method, which can be done with an inexpensive, aluminum pan purchased from the grocery store that makes for easy clean up. And if you don't have a rack to roast the turkey on, try making an aluminum 'foil coil' to elevate the turkey off the pan. Even if you're out of foil, you can use carrots or another hearty vegetable to help keep air circulating under the bird.

How do you get the skin perfectly cooked and crisp?
To get that nice golden-brown color, brush the breast of the turkey with oil right before you put it in the oven. Any kind of neutral oil works great, from avocado oil to vegetable oil. Even mayonnaise will give you an amazing colored turkey.

PHOTO: A roasted Butterball turkey with all the trimmings for Thanksgiving.
A roasted Butterball turkey with all the trimmings for Thanksgiving.
ABC News

Tips to prevent burning if the bird is getting too brown
Use foil as a tent to shield the part of the turkey that is browning too quickly. This will allow the other areas to catch up and prevent dryness.

How do you know if the turkey is done?
The best recommendation is to use a meat thermometer and ensure the turkey is properly cooked. A foolproof way to know when the turkey is done: Look for 165 F in the stuffing, 170 F in the breast and 180 F in the thigh.

What's a good last-minute turkey seasoning with pantry ingredients?
A quick dry rub can be made in minutes. Just grab a small bowl and stir together the following spices:

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried thyme

These spices can also be substituted for what you have in your pantry or based on what flavors you enjoy.

What if you don't have enough gravy?
Melt some butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Stir in a small spoonful of flour. Heat and stir until light brown. Remove from the heat. Gradually blend in broth -- turkey or chicken -- until smooth. Return the saucepan to the heat and increase heat to medium-high. Bring the gravy to a boil and stir frequently. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer 5 minutes or until thickened slightly.

How to amp up the flavor of mashed potatoes

For garlic mashed potatoes: add 1 teaspoon garlic powder with salt.

For herbed mashed potatoes: stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme after mashing.

For creamy and cheesy mashed potatoes: Add cheese, half and half, and butter to the potatoes. Once you've mashed with potato masher until smooth, stir in chopped chives, salt and pepper.