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According To Butterball, You CAN Actually Microwave A Whole Turkey

This Thanksgiving season, there's been a viral prank going around that encourages folks to text their moms asking how to microwave a 25-pound turkey. While it's elicited some pretty funny WTF reactions that people have posted online, turns out there actually IS a way to cook the whole bird in the microwave, and it could save you a bit of time.

Butterball went on the record with TODAY Food to explain exactly how it was possible. While they recommend against it for anything over 12 pounds based on health and safety reasons, smaller birds can cook in about 2 hours time using the microwave oven properly. These are the steps they recommended:

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  1. Thaw the turkey out first to room temperature, then place breast-side down in a microwave-safe dish or plate.
  2. Microwaving will happen in two stages. The first part will be at full power, for 4 minutes per pound. So, if you have a 10-pound turkey, it will take 40 minutes.
  3. Set your microwave down to half power, remove the drippings from the plate, and turn the turkey back over. Baste the skin, then microwave for 8 minutes per pound. Make sure to baste every 18 minutes, taking the turkey's temperature in the thigh and the breast each time.
  4. When the turkey thigh reaches an internal temperature of 180-185 degrees F and the breast is at 170-175 degrees F, the turkey is done. Baste once more, then serve.

Based on these instructions, the total cooking time for a 10-pound turkey would be 2 hours, not counting time needed to baste and thaw out the bird. If you were to do it an oven, FoodSafety.gov recommends about 3 hours for a similar turkey (unstuffed), so you'd save a significant amount of time using the microwave.

To make sure that the Butterball hotline wasn't pulling the wool over our eyes on this one, we reached out to them West Wing-style, noting that we were interested in cooking a turkey in the microwave. This is the response we got:

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"Butterball has not tested cooking directions over anything larger than 12 pounds. We recommend following the microwave's manufacturer's directions. Just make sure your thigh reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees F and your breast reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees F."

"Microwaving a turkey under 12 lbs is an option but there are many steps. Call or email for complete directions."

E-mailing a request for complete directions for a 10-pound turkey yielded the following recipe, which is pretty similar to the one Butterball gave to TODAY:

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Many microwaves have small interiors and carousels, be sure turkey and tray fit.  Begin by evenly stabilizing turkey, breast down, with microwave-safe item, in microwave-safe dish.

To cook, follow these steps 3 to 4 times:

1) Brush back of turkey with one tablespoon of Browning Sauce*.

2) Microwave at high power for 4 minutes per pound. If no turntable, rotate at 2 minutes.

3) Remove and discard drippings (remove so microwave energy remains on turkey; discard they are partially cooked and therefore unsafe to consume).

4) Turn turkey breast up (protect fingers with paper towels).  Brush breast with one tablespoon of Browning Sauce*.

5) Microwave at medium power for 8 minutes per pound.

6) Remove and discard drippings.

After third interval, check temperatures.  If all parts not up to temperature, microwave for fourth interval and recheck temperatures to ensure breast is at 165 degrees F and thigh is at 180 degrees. F.  Cover cooked turkey with foil and let stand for 15-20 minutes before carving.

* BROWNING SAUCE:  1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup); 1/4 teaspoon paprika; 1/8 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master

While the 25-pound turkey everyone is pranking their moms with isn't a real microwave option, know that if you are in a time crunch and have a smaller bird, using the appliance might be a real option to cooking the bird faster.