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The Most Common Thanksgiving Turkey Problems—Solved!

Whether you're serving Thanksgiving turkey for the first or 100th time, many home cooks have the same questions—and chef Shahir Massoud has the answers.

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Shahir Massoud - thawing turkey tipsPhoto: Shutterstock

“What Do I Do If My Turkey is Still Frozen?”

Did you know that this is the number one question fielded by the Butterball hotline every Thanksgiving? If you need to thaw your turkey in a hurry, fully submerge the bird, breast-side down, in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes and it should take about thirty minutes per pound to completely thaw the turkey (that’s 5 hours for a 10 pound turkey).

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Raw turkeyPhoto: Shutterstock

“How Big of a Turkey Do I Need?”

The general tip is 1.5 pounds per person. At, just enter the number of guests you’re hosting to get instant calculations of how big a bird you need, how long it will need to thaw and how long it will take to cook—whether it’s stuffed, unstuffed or frozen pre-stuffed.

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Thanksgiving turkeyPhoto: Shutterstock

“How Do I Get Crispy Skin on My Turkey?”

Moisture is the enemy of crispness. To get that satisfying crunch, make sure the skin is blotted dry before you begin preparing the bird. Then rub the turkey with a neutral oil before you place it in the oven—my preference is canola oil for a beautiful golden appearance!

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Moist and delicious looking turkeyPhoto: Shutterstock

“How Do I Make Sure My Turkey is Moist and Juicy?”

First, give your turkey time to thaw. If the turkey is even a little frozen, ice crystals in the meat will melt and steam the turkey from the inside, drying it out as it cooks. Second, use a meat thermometer. An overcooked turkey is a dry turkey. You’re aiming for 180F in the thickest part of the thigh. And lastly, let it rest; it will keep cooking as it rests. Mix one more round of cocktails after the turkey comes out of the oven. You want to give your bird at least 20 minutes on the counter to let the juices redistribute. Cover it with foil, but loosely: If the steam gets trapped under the cover, you’ll end up with soggy skin.

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Turkey sandwich made from Thanksgiving leftoversPhoto: Shutterstock

“How Do I Avoid Leftovers?”

For a smaller crowd, I’m a big fan of preparing a turkey roast rather than a whole turkey. Rub the turkey roast with vegetable oil and then cook it on a rack in a roasting pan until it reaches 165F in the thickest part of the roast meat. Don’t forget to let it rest! And of course, you can still enjoy the tradition of a whole turkey with a small group.

Now that you’ve got these Thanksgiving turkey tips from Shahir Massoud under your belt, have a laugh at these hilarious Butterball hotline calls!