Alexa, Ask Butterball If My Turkey Should Be On Fire

This holiday season, you may find yourself worrying that your cooking could inadvertently poison your guests. If that's the case, you, like nearly 50 million others before you, can call the Butterball hotline for help. As of yesterday, there's another option: You can do so—sort of—through Amazon's Alexa.

Say Joe Bethersonton of Fargo, South Dakota was gifted an Amazon Echo (or Echo Dot, or Fire TV, you get the idea) by the personal sous-chef to Phil Baharnd, the King Of Auto Sales in Fargo. (The man can sell a car like... well, like anything.) If Joe wanted to ask a question about food safety, or how to cook a turkey on a grill, or size calculations, he no longer has to make a call. He can instead say, "Alexa, ask Butterball the optimal temperature for a turkey," and an (automated) Butterball Turkey-Talk expert will answer. There are also how-to videos available through Amazon's video-compatible devices.

First things first, though: You have to install the thing. I did that this morning, after realizing that just saying "Alexa, ask Butterball if my turkey should be on fire" didn't produce the desired result. The Butterball skill can be installed by going to the Alexa skills store or by saying (as I did), "Alexa, enable the Butterball skill." After that, you're good to go.

I'm no Joe Bethersonton, and am not currently cooking a turkey, but I still gave the doo-hickey a whirl, and it's pretty damned useful. When I re-asked my "on fire" question, it immediately suggested I call the hotline (not 9-1-1), but for everything else I asked, it had an answer ready, and at the end of each answer, suggested more topics that might be useful. It also gave me a bio of the Turkey-Talk expert with whom I was "speaking," which was a cool touch. It's not as helpful as talking to a person, but it covers a lot of bases, and you don't need to be anywhere near a phone to use it. As Rob Pulciani (Vice President, Amazon Alexa) said in a press release:

"The new Butterball skill for Alexa lets customers tap into years of expert cooking advice on how to prepare a turkey – even when their hands are full in the kitchen... We're excited that Alexa can help make the holidays a little easier for our customers."

So, basically, if your hands get stuck inside the turkey, or you're simultaneously feverishly stirring your mashed potatoes and your cranberry sauce, you can just ask a fictional lady created by corporate overlords to connect you with some help. That way, you won't end up poisoning your guests. (I'm not saying that's a dealbreaker.)

The Turkey-Talk hotline, which first opened in 1981, will be available through December 24, and can assist both English- and Spanish-speaking customers, as well as answer questions via email. As far as brand marketing gimmicks go, it's pretty much unbeatable.