Thanksgiving 911: 7 free holiday cooking hotlines
Can you serve turkey tartare? Well, my mother-in-law tried to do that on one of the first Thanksgivings I spent with my husband’s family, but it wasn’t on purpose. While she hadn’t forgotten to put the turkey in the oven, she did forget to turn the over on. So imagine her surprise, four hours later, when we were all sitting down at the table, and she discovered that the turkey was raw.
What would you do if you discovered you’d forgotten to cook the Thanksgiving turkey? Dial Thanksgiving 911? Well, the Butterball Turkey Talk Line is kind of like that. Around since 1981 and answering questions about cooking turkey, it is one of seven free holiday cooking hotlines available this holiday season, listed here in alphabetical order.
- Betty Crocker: This holiday season the “Ask Betty” feature on the eponymous website will be going live via social media to offer cooking assistance. On Friday, Nov. 22, Betty Crocker Test Kitchen experts will be hosting a Twitter chat from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m. CST. Then, Nov. 25-27, experts will be answering questions via an online form and Facebook, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST; all questions will be answered within 30 minutes. The “hotline” opens up again in December, with a Twitter chat on Wednesday, Dec. 4, from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m., CST, and questions answered online Dec. 20-23, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST.
- Butterball: When you call the Butterball Turkey Talk Line (800-288-8372), there are more than 50 English- and Spanish-speaking experts available in November and December to talk turkey and answer your questions about cooking turkey. The Turkey Talk Line stays open through Christmas Eve.
- Crisco: The unofficial motto for this year’s Crisco Pie Hotline is “Keep Calm and Bake On.” And why not? Help is just a phone call away. The Crisco Pie Hotline (877-FOR-PIE-TIPS or 877-367-7438) provides information and tips to assist bakers with some of the most common pie-baking challenges, including how to keep a pie crust from shrinking (don’t pull or tug the dough when fitting it in the pie pan). You can speak with Crisco pie experts Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST, with extended hours Nov. 18-27, and Dec. 16-23.
- King Arthur Flour: This brand’s Baker’s Hotline actually offers three ways to get your baking questions answered, seven days a week: an online chat, via email (answers are sent within 24 hours), or by calling the actual hotline (855-371-BAKE or 2253).
- NSF: NSF International is a nonprofit public health and safety organization that writes safety standards and offers a consumer help hotline (800-673-8010) to answer any questions on food and water safety this holiday season, such as how to avoid giving your guests food poisoning.
- Ocean Spray: Extended hours for the Ocean Spray Holiday Helpline (800-662-3263) start today, Nov. 18 and go through Black Friday. The Helpline is even open on Thanksgiving Day. (See all the hours on the Ocean Spray site.) Some of the most popular cranberry-related questions include if cranberry sauce can be frozen (no), and if you can use the recipe for cranberry bread to make cranberry muffins (yes).
- USDA: Another resource on food safety is the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (888-674-6854). It is available year-round, including on Thanksgiving Day, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST.
Considering Americans cook approximately 45 million turkeys on Thanksgiving, it’s great to know that you can have an expert on hand to answer questions like, say, “What do you do with a raw turkey in an oven that you forgot to turn on?”
Speaking of which, what did we do on that long-ago Thanksgiving? With all the sides, plus the pasta course that is a must at any meal at my mother-in-law’s Italian home, no one went home hungry!
Leah Ingram is the author of 14 books, including two on frugal living: Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier on Less (Adams Media, 2010) and Toss, Keep, Sell: The Suddenly Frugal Guide to Getting Organized and Making Money from Your Stuff (Adams Media, 2010). She is also the founder of the popular frugal-living blog called Suddenly Frugal.