Thanksgiving 2018 is Thursday November 22nd. Depending upon the size of your turkey, you probably should have started it defrosting it already if you're going to thaw it in the refrigerator!

Remember turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature while thawing. While a frozen turkey is safe indefinitely, as soon as you begin thawing your turkey, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing may begin to grow again.

A package of frozen meat or poultry left thawing on the counter for more than two hours is not at a safe temperature. Even though the center of the package may still be frozen, the outer layer of the food is in the “Danger Zone”, between 40 and 140 degrees, at a temperature where food borne bacteria multiply.

There are three ways to safely thaw a turkey! In a refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave.

Refrigerator Thawing

When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator, plan ahead! Allow roughly 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees or below. Place the turkey in a container to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods.

Whole Turkey Thawing Times

  • 4 to 12 pounds… ..1 to 3 days
  • 12 to 16 pounds… 3 to 4 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds… 4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds… 5 to 6 days.

A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days before cooking.

Cold Water Thawing

Allow about 30 minutes per pound. Be sure the turkey is in a leak proof bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water. Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.

Microwave Thawing

Follow the microwave oven manufacturer’s instruction when defrosting a turkey. Plan to cook it immediately after thawing, as some areas of the food may have become warm and begun to cook during microwaving.


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