thaw turkey in refrigerator

How to Thaw Turkey Safely Before Thanksgiving

While a perfectly cooked turkey is a Thanksgiving achievement, proper thawing is just as crucial to a successful holiday. Wondering how to thaw turkey safely and effectively? With adequate time, thawing in the refrigerator minimizes the risk of harmful bacterial growth. Learn different ways to safely thaw turkey for Thanksgiving dinner success.

Your Thanksgiving Questions, Answered: How to Thaw Turkey Safely

Knowing how to thaw turkey more than one way ensures that it defrosts and cooks within a variety of common time constraints. But, most importantly, proper thawing is essential to preventing bacterial growth that can lead to foodborne illness. To best begin your holiday planning, we’ll detail what to expect for thawing times before discussing each method.

How Long Does it Take to Thaw Frozen Turkey?

The time it takes to thaw frozen turkey largely depends on the weight of the bird and the thawing method used. Generally, thawing a frozen turkey in the refrigerator takes about 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds. Using the cold water method in the kitchen sink usually takes 30 minutes per pound. Given these standards, an average 15-pound turkey should take 3 days to thaw in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, it will likely take 7.5 hours to defrost with the cold water method. 

Keeping these average times in mind, here’s how to safely thaw a turkey with the two different methods.

Can I Thaw Turkey in my Refrigerator?

thaw turkey in refrigerator

Not only can you thaw turkey in refrigerator, but it’s also widely considered to be the safest method. Why is refrigerator thawing preferable? The consistently cold temperature inside the refrigerator works best to minimize bacterial growth during thawing. In addition, the turkey can remain safely refrigerated for up to 4 days once defrosted.

Follow these steps to thaw a turkey in the refrigerator properly:

  • Rest the unopened turkey breast-side up in a baking pan to safely contain any dripping moisture.
  • Place the pan inside the refrigerator, preferably on a lower shelf to prevent leaking.
  • Cook within 4 days of thawing.

Is it Safe to Thaw Turkey in a Sink?

Wondering how to defrost a turkey fast when you don’t have days to thaw it in the fridge? Defrosting turkey with cold water in the kitchen sink is a viable option. However, while this method takes hours instead of days, it doesn’t safely allow you to defrost a turkey overnight. To keep the water cold enough to prevent harmful bacterial growth, it must be changed every 30 minutes. For similar reasons, the turkey must also be cooked immediately after thawing.

When time is at a premium, it’s possible to thaw the turkey partially in the refrigerator for 2 days before finishing in the kitchen sink on Thanksgiving morning.

Here’s how to thaw turkey in cold water in the kitchen sink:

  • Place the unopened turkey in a heavy-duty plastic bag, squeezing out the extra air before sealing the bag.
  • Place the turkey breast-side down in the kitchen sink and fill the sink with cold water. It may be necessary to weigh the turkey down with a heavy plate or cans to keep it fully submerged.
  • Change the water every 30 minutes.
  • Cook as soon as the turkey is thawed.

What Can I Do if My Turkey is Still Frozen on Thanksgiving Day?

safely thaw turkey

What if your turkey is still frozen on the big day? Don’t panic; you can cook a frozen turkey as long as you budget for additional time and push back your Thanksgiving dessert. Cooking a fully frozen turkey will take 50% longer, while a partially frozen turkey takes 25% more time. Though a frozen turkey can’t be brined or stuffed, brushing it with butter and sprinkling it with spices during cooking adds flavor. 

Knowing how to safely thaw a turkey won’t be of much help if your oven isn’t in proper working order. Schedule your service call before the holidays with A-Tech Appliance Parts & Service.

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