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Timely tips

If you forget to thaw your turkey, a safe way to do it is submerge the turkey in a (clean) sink of cold water. Leave the bird in the wrapper and allow 30 minutes of thaw time for every pound of turkey.

Use a thermometer to test the turkey's doneness. Insert the meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh muscle, but not touching the bone. Temperatures should reach 180 degrees in the thigh and 160 degrees in the center of the stuffing.

Transport mashed potatoes, or keep them warm, in a warmed slow cooker on the lowest setting, advises Leanne Ely, author of "Saving Dinner for the Holidays." This frees up valuable oven space for other items.

Warm serving plates in the dishwasher before filling them with food, so they will keep the food warm longer while serving a crowd, experts at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line advise.

Prepare gravy just before serving to avoid reheating and possible lumping and scorching.

Use a freshly sharpened, straight knife to make carving hassle-free, advise the Butterball folks.

If your stuffing is dry, heat together a little melted butter and chicken broth, and toss into the stuffing.

If your gravy goes lumpy, run it through the blender. (Caution: Fill the blender only halfway full, because the gravy's hot steam can create some pressure and spray the gravy up to the ceiling.)

If your turkey is taking longer to cook, you may be opening the oven too often. Every time you open the oven, you lose about 25 degrees. Allow this into your timing, or don't open the door to baste as often, writes Ely.

If your cranberries are runny, they may need a little more cooking to thicken. "I say pull out the strainer, drain off some of the juice, and slap the sauce into a serving dish," writes Ely. "Don't you have enough going on without having to redo the cranberries?"

If you're often stuck with the cleanup while everyone else rushes out the door or sits in front of the TV football game, you might try assigning cleanup duties ahead of time. "We don't give assignments for cleanup, we always just have helpers who come forward," said Julie Badger Jensen, author of "Essential Mormon Celebrations." "My husband is a great one to help. He always starts helping with the dishes." (Can we invite him to our houses, too?)

Questions? Call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line at 800-288-8372 or check www.butterball.com.