How to Thaw a Frozen Turkey
Planning ahead is key to a successful holiday dinner if you are the host. Even before the yams, pie, and stuffing come into play, the frozen turkey needs to be thawed.
The refrigerator still remains the preferred method to safely thaw the turkey. Here’s the pounds / thawing time guide: (based on whole turkey)
- 8 to 12 pounds……….1 to 2 days
- 12 to 16 pounds……….2 to 3 days
- 16 to 20 pounds……….3 to 4 days
- 20 to 24 pounds……….4 to 5 days
Allow approximately 24 hours for every 5 pounds in a refrigerator (set at 40 °F.)
Remember that thawing a turkey on the kitchen counter at room temperature is unsafe. After only a short time bacteria can multiply rapidly. A package of frozen meat or poultry thawing on the counter longer than 2 hours is not safe.
The water thawing method is another way to thaw the bird but it does require a little extra attention. First, make sure the packaging is sealed tight. If there is a leak in the packaging, the turkey can absorb water and can result in a “watery bird.” Plus, you must keep the water at 40°F or colder the entire time. Also, it is recommended to change the water every 30 minutes. So, unless you’re strictly committed to changing the water up to 24 times, don’t bother with this method.
Cold Water thawing method guide:
- 8 to 12 pounds………..4 to 6 hours
- 12 to 16 pounds………..6 to 8 hours
- 16 to 20 pounds………8 to 10 hours
- 20 to 24 pounds…….10 to 12 hours
I do not recommend the microwave thawing method as some areas of the turkey may become warm and begin to cook while the center is still frozen. This is a very unpredictable and unsafe way to thaw the bird.
On one last note: Would you be a guest at someone’s house if you knew they thawed the turkey in the bathtub? Me neither. Don’t do it.
For additional question, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854.