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The Government Has a Hotline You Can Call If You Need Help Cooking Your Thanksgiving Turkey


"...catch any juices that may leak..."

The Department of Agriculture has set up a phone number people can call if they need ideas about how to cook their Thanksgiving turkey.

USDA has a webpage called "Let's Talk Turkey — A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey." That page offers lots of advice — for example, it says people should keep fresh turkeys in the refrigerator "until you're ready to cook it," and to put turkeys in a pan or tray when they go in the oven "to catch any juices that may leak."

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 8.50.01 AM If you're having trouble turning these birds into dinner, USDA has a hotline you can call.
Image: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

It also estimates the time needed for cooking turkeys in various ways. But if things get out of control, or you need other ideas on how to cook a turkey, people can call USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline: 1-888-674-6854.

The only catch is that it's a government hotline, so only active from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. eastern standard time. However, USDA said it's web-based automated response system, called "Ask Karen," is available 24 hours a day at

This week, USDA launched a series of online articles that will give people helpful tips for how to safely buy and cook a turkey for Thanksgiving.

"Unsafe handling and undercooking of turkeys can lead to serious foodborne illness, but the USDA is here to offer a few tips so you have a delicious, safe holiday feast," USDA said. "Over the next two weeks, we will share several food safety steps that you should follow."

USDA seems to be starting the process slowly — its first article mostly tells readers what the difference is between a fresh and frozen turkey. A fresh turkey, it said, has never been chilled below 26 degrees Fahrenheit, while a frozen turkey has been cooled to zero degrees.

"[K]eep your raw bird separate from any other items in your shopping cart to prevent cross-contamination," it advises.

The article also describes the difference between natural, kosher, free range and organic turkeys.

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