Talking turkey: Behind the Butterball Talk Line

Inside the Butterball Turkey Line headquarters in Naperville, Ill.
Inside the Butterball Turkey Line headquarters in Naperville, Ill.

(CBS News) The people who produce Butterball turkeys are hard at work, helping us cook the birds they sell.

More than 50 trained experts will help one million customers over the next few weeks on e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and over the phone. They get about 12,000 phone calls on Thanksgiving Day alone.

Special section: Food and Wine

CBS News visited the place where they answer all those questions.

The phone lines at the Butterball Talk Line in Naperville, Ill., are heating up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Since 1981, the graduates of Butterball University -- and yes, there is a Butterball University -- dish out tips to help make the holiday taste just right.

Carol Miller has been offering forkfuls of advice to anxious cooks for almost three decades. She said, "We are very gentle souls. We know what we're talking about. You've got a question, you've got a problem? We're here to help."

Or at least try.

Miller recalled that she took an unusual call from a dad-to-be. She said, "His question is: 'I think my wife's in labor. The turkey's been thawing for four days. What do I do?'

"So it's like, 'Take care of your wife. The turkey's OK,'" Miller said. "Give us a call back when you get home."

The wisdom of Solomon is needed at times. Miller said, "The one cook in the house might say, 'You need to cover the turkey,' and the other cook says, 'No, that's not the way to do it.' So they will call the experts, and we get to litigate it."

She acts like a kind of referee. "They take our advice," she said. "And then at the other end of the phone as they're hanging up you can hear them say, 'I told you so!'"

One guy wondered how the oil from his chain saw might affect the taste of the turkey he'd just carved with it.

Many are stumped when the turkey just won't thaw. Miller's suggestion: "Sometimes you try to lighten it up a little bit, and I'll say to them to have dessert first."

One of the most popular questions: Why is the company called Butterball? It's a fat turkey, according to Miller. "It's moist, juicy and tender," she said.

Actually, when the first Butterball came out in the 1950s, it was simply plumper than its competitors.

Nicole Johnson, a Butterballer for 11 years, said it's "turkey all the time" at Butterball. Asked if she ever wishes for a ham sandwich, she said, "No. No. No. No. We love turkey. We love turkey."

And Butterball has never been more accessible. It's gone modern on Facebook and Twitter, in addition to its own website and app, where you can get help for desserts, for sides, and even for some non-turkey entrees -- some.

Asked about tofu turkeys, Miller said, "It's not our area of expertise."

On Thursday Miller and her friends will leave the cooking to others, but they'll be on the phones for eight hours. But they don't consider it a sacrifice.

Miller said, "You are walking into people's homes. You are walking into what is happening in their homes, so sometimes you feel like a guest at the dinner."

For Dean Reynolds' full report, watch the video in the player above.