Tales from the Butterball Hotline
It’s 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and you just realized you forgot to thaw your turkey. What do you do?
Don’t panic. You just need to call 1-800-BUTTERBALL. Yes, the Turkey Talk-Line is real. And yes, they really do have poultry experts standing by to help you with your last-minute snafus, flubs, and foul-ups. If you wake up in a cold sweat at 2 a.m. thinking about salmonella or whether you can bathe your turkey with your toddler (see below), never fear—Butterball is there for you. And it’s not just about Thanksgiving. The line is open until December 24, to help you with those holiday feasts as well.
When the hotline first opened up to panicked chefs in the early 1980s, a mere six “home economists” responded to 11,000 phone calls during November and December. These days, their staff has expanded to more than 50 and they answer more than 100,000 questions.
Those staff members have heard it all, too. They get the typical questions you’d expect turkey experts to get, of course: How long will it take to thaw the turkey? How do I stuff a turkey? Are there any allergens in Butterball products? But there’s also the, um, unexpected.
Among the more questionable calls the turkey experts have received: “Can I brine my turkey in the washing machine?” and “The family dog is inside the turkey and can’t get out.” (It was a Chihuahua, in case you’re wondering, and the Butterball expert did manage to help the owners get the dog out safely.)
Another inexperienced caller worried that her turkey wouldn’t come out of the oven because she figured it was going to rise like bread does. One Butterball employee actually stayed on the line while her caller walked through a grocery store and painstakingly picked out ingredients for his Thanksgiving dinner.
In 2014, a hotline employee recounted hearing from a wife who came home to find the turkey floating in the tub while her husband gave the kids a bath. Believe it or not, because the turkey hadn't been removed from the package, it was salvaged—though the kids complained about the chilly water.
Don’t feel bad if you have to call the Butterball hotline for assistance, though. Even President Bartlet knows when to call in the experts:
By the way, there’s also an option for those of you who prefer assistance in the form of written word: you can text your questions to 1-844-877-3456. The company is also answering questions via its social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.
A version of this story ran in 2011; it has been updated for 2022.