Uh, oh. What if you didn't start thawing your 20-pound turkey in time for Thanksgiving? What sort of main course should you make for your vegetarian relatives? And what wine variety should be served?
For the first time in the 12-year history of offering Thanksgiving meal advice at 1-800-TURKEYS, Hormel Foods Corp. and its subsidiary Jennie-O Turkey Store has well-known chefs, food influencers and bloggers available to answer last-minute questions for the frazzled, anxious or perfectionists charged with the onerous task of making the Thanksgiving feast.
In the age of Google, it's hard to imagine calling a hotline to find an answer. But when trying to grocery shop, clean the house and communicate with friends and family, taking the time to weed through thousands of online search results for an authoritative answer to a specific question can be tedious.
That's why Austin, Minn.-based Hormel and its Willmar-based Jennie-O brand expect more than 10,000 inquiries this month related to Thanksgiving turkeys.
And through Wednesday, during regular business hours, the company has enlisted culinary reinforcements for any question that might require a bit extra know-how or creativity. Chefs like Christina Machamer, a certified sommelier who won the fourth season of the reality cooking show "Hell's Kitchen," and Kenneth Temple, a champion on the Food Network's "Chopped" television show. Others include certified master chef Ron DeSantis, chefs Nicole Dayani and Aubrey Johansen and culinary instructor and cookbook author Emily Paster.
The company said hotline workers are already fielding many questions related to the thawing process. But there have also been more questions this year about creative new side dishes meant to impress at their Friendsgiving or seeking ideas for vegan substitutes.
Not all of the inquiries can be anticipated. Some of the surprising questions include, "I washed the turkey in soap. Is that bad?" or "Can I check the internal temperature with a child's thermometer instead of a meat thermometer?" One caller rolled their turkey around in dirt as a thawing technique.
The call center and website chat are available through Sunday with extended late-night hours this week.
Jennie-O is the nation's second-largest turkey producer, slaughtering 1.23 billion pounds of turkey in 2018, according to the industry's trade publication WattAgNet.
Butterball is Jennie-O's top rival and the nation's leader at 1.33 billion pounds of turkey slaughtered last year. That company also operates a well-known holiday turkey hotline. This year, North Carolina-based Butterball featured actor Freddie Prinze Jr., who worked the phone lines one day earlier this month, answering caller questions as someone who "has years of experience hosting his own Thanksgiving occasions," the company said.