Last-minute help for your Thanksgiving meal is only a phone call or Web site away

Got a last-minute turkey question or need ideas fast? Try these hot lines and Web sites, where live and virtual operators are ready to help. Betty Crocker: (888) 275-2388, offers help with holiday planning and recipes, weekdays, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30...

Got a last-minute turkey question or need ideas fast? Try these hot lines and Web sites, where live and virtual operators are ready to help.

Betty Crocker: (888) 275-2388, offers help with holiday planning and recipes, weekdays, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Butterball Turkey Talk Line: (800) 288-8372, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day; 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 24 and 25.

Cooks Illustrated: Features turkey Q & A, equipment tests and illustrated carving guide, plus recipes. /turkeyhelp.

Land O'Lakes: Recipes, baking tips and holiday cooking suggestions at


National Turkey Federation: For virtual chef recipes and cooking demonstrations, turkey tips and recipes, go to

Ocean Spray: Site offers cranberry recipes at . Consumer Helpline, (800) 662-3263.

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline: (888) 674-6854. For the hearing impaired (TTY) (800) 256-7072. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Virtual representative available 24 hours a day. .

Reynolds Turkey Tips: (800) 745-4000, recorded information about defrosting and roasting turkeys.

The Epicurious Web site, , has a "Thanksgiving Central" link that provides advice on turkey, make-ahead dishes, mashed potatoes, desserts and leftovers.

Turkey temperature

The U.S. Department of Agriculture changed its poultry guidelines about safe cooking temperatures this year, and the change should result in moister white meat.

The USDA now says each part of the turkey should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees, rather than 180 degrees. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of thigh and breast.


Roast turkey at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes per pound, adding 30 minutes to the total time if the turkey is stuffed. Check for doneness 30 to 45 minutes prior to calculated time.

Let the turkey "rest" for 20 minutes after removing it from the oven before carving.


* When baking the stuffing separately, use an ovenproof glass baking dish instead of a ceramic one. The bottom of the stuffing will brown better (Fine Cooking magazine, November).

* For easier stuffing extraction, line the empty cavity of the turkey with a folded piece of cheesecloth. Make sure the cheesecloth is large enough to reach the outer edge of the cavity. Loosely pack the stuffing into the cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine (Cook's Country, November).

* Two ways to handle problem gravy: Too thick? Add a splash of fortified wine such as Madeira or sherry. Too pale? Add a few shakes of soy sauce (Real Simple, November).

* Four steps to light and buttery mashed potatoes: Boil the potatoes whole, with the skin on. Dry them out in a large saucepan over medium heat for two minutes before you rice or mash. Add butter before you add any liquids. Add milk/liquid that has been warmed (Bon Appetit, November).

* Refresh undressed salad and crudites the next day by soaking them in water for 10 minutes. Make savory bread pudding with leftover stuffing; add meat from turkey legs to make it a strata. (Gourmet, November).


* When refrigerating pumpkin pie, lay a piece of paper towel lightly across the top, then cover the pie with plastic wrap. The towel will absorb any moisture and keep the pie surface free of droplets (Everyday Food, November).


* Within two hours of roasting, remove stuffing from turkey and carve the meat off the bones, then store in refrigerator or freezer.

* Wrap turkey slices and stuffing separately. (You may want to separate white and dark meat to use for different types of dishes.) In the refrigerator, keep cooked turkey for up to four days, stuffing and gravy for one to two days and other cooked dishes for three to four days.

* If refrigerator space is at a premium, use a Chinese cleaver or heavy knife to chop the carcass into pieces for more compact storage. Package and refrigerate for soup making.

* Bring leftover gravy to a full boil before serving.

* Freeze leftovers if you plan to store them for a longer period of time. Wrap in heavy foil or freezer wrap, or place in freezer container or freezer bags; label and date.

* Never freeze a huge lump of sliced meat in a single package or you'll be stuck thawing the same large portion at some future date. And remember: Each time you thaw and re-freeze, both the quality and window of safety diminish.


* In the freezer, turkey slices should be good for four months; turkey covered with gravy, six months. Cooked poultry dishes keep four to six months, and stuffing and gravy for one month. Frozen foods held longer are safe but may lose flavor, according to the USDA.

* If you plan to use extra cranberry sauce or cranberry-orange relish within a few days, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Otherwise, freeze it for up to nine months.

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