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The Perfect Turkey is as Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Plan now for a perfect, stress-free holiday meal. (Photo by Blaine Moats)

For Sue Smith, a registered dietitian who moonlights as a turkey expert with the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line every fall, Thanksgiving is truly the most wonderful time of the year. "It's definitely my favorite holiday! As part of the Talk-Line, I'm able to be involved with so many Thanksgiving meals," Smith says.

The most common question she tackles? How to properly thaw the bird. And who calls most commonly? "A lot of newlyweds who want to make their first holidays perfect," she says. But the most memorable call during her 11-year stint as a talk-line expert was from a mother-in-law who was whispering into her phone while hiding in a closet. "She would stop talking when people walked by! She was afraid her daughter-in-law, who was a vegetarian, couldn't cook the meal right," Smith remembers. "But the mom called back later to tell us that the daughter did everything perfectly and the turkey was delicious!

Smith promises that your Thanksgiving turkey is nothing to worry about—in fact, it can be as simple as following her three tricks of the trade:

1. Stock up. How do you know what size bird to buy? Smith recommends allotting for 1 1/2 pounds per person. "That will be plenty for generous servings and leftovers."

2. Follow the "three Ts." That's Smith's trick to remember the three most important factors in preparing the perfect turkey: thaw, temperature and temp.

  • Thaw. "Thaw your bird breast-side up in a pan on the bottom shelf of your fridge. Allow one day for every four pounds," Smith says.
  • Temperature. "Cook your turkey until a thermometer you insert in the thigh reads 180 degrees or 170 degrees in the breast," she adds.
  • Tent. Two-thirds of the way through the total cooking time, top your turkey with foil to allow the meat that is closer to the center of the bird to cook without burning the meat closer to the surface.

3. Ditch dry meat. When your turkey is finished in the oven, "pull it out and let it stand on the counter for about 20 minutes before carving, with the foil on top, to let the juices settle," Smith says. This will lead to a moister, more flavorful slice.

If you need help with a turkey crisis during November and December, you can reach the experts at Butterball via phone (1-800-BUTTERBALL) or email (talkline@butterball.com). Keep checking in at The Fit Stop in the next two weeks for more Thanksgiving entertaining, cooking and leftover tips!

Now tell us: Do you have any Thanksgiving meal prep disaster stories? Come clean in the comments!

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