Turkey season is approaching, which means it’s time to revisit my refresher course in how to thaw a turkey. Learn how to properly defrost your turkey in the fridge or in cold water for the best (safe) results!
How Long Does it Take to Thaw a Turkey
Tempting though it may be, don’t make the mistake of defrosting your bird at room temperature. There is too much opportunity for bacteria to multiply on the outer layer before the inside is thawed. Keep turkey cold while it thaws, either in the refrigerator or cold water.
As for the length of time for thawing turkey that will depend on the size. While we’re on that subject, how big a bird should you buy? The rule of is one pound per person, so plan accordingly.
To Defrost in the Refrigerator
In a refrigerator set at 40°F, the average thaw time is 1 day for every 4-5 pounds.
- 14 – 18 pounds: 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 days
- 18 – 22 pounds: 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 days
- 22 – 24 pounds: 5 1/2 to 6 days
- 24 – 30 pounds: 6 to 7 days
To Defrost in Cold Water (Faster)
For thawing turkey in the cold water method, make sure you place your turkey breast side down and fully submerge in the water.
- 14 – 18 pounds: 7 to 9 hours
- 18 – 22 pounds: 9 to 11 hours
- 22 – 24 pounds: 11 to 13 hours
- 24 – 30 pounds: 13 to 16 hours
How to Defrost a Turkey in the Fridge
To safely thaw turkey in refrigerator, plan ahead for time and follow these steps:
- Keep the turkey in its wrapper. Place in a pan to catch any drippings.
- Allow enough days to thoroughly thaw.
- When thawed, the turkey should be cooked within 1 – 2 days.
If the bird is very large, use disposable foil roasting pan with high sides for thawing in the fridge. This will catch any drips while defrosting plus it’s a great place to catch any juices when cutting off the wrapper. (You definitely don’t want to use those flimsy pans for roasting turkey, they don’t conduct heat well and and add tons of extra cook time!)
Safety Tip: Food safety experts strongly advise against rinsing raw poultry, because it’s practically impossible to prevent tiny droplets from contaminating your kitchen. The heat of cooking does a much better job of destroying bacteria.
How to Defrost a Turkey in Cold Water
To get your bird thawed fast, use the cold water method.
- Keep the turkey in its wrapper.
- Submerge in very cold tap water.
- Make sure to change the water every 30 minutes.
Armed with these steps for safely thawing turkey, you can rest easy in knowing that you’ll be serving your family a healthy and happy turkey dinner!
Delicious Thanksgiving Sides
- Corn Pudding – sweet, rich custard-like casserole
- Make Ahead Turkey Stuffing – perfectly portioned
- Baked Mac and Cheese – favorite comfort food!
- Scalloped Potatoes Recipe – potato perfection
- Cranberry Waldorf Salad – packed with color & crunch!