How To Safely Thaw A Frozen Turkey

If you’ve got a frozen turkey you plan on cooking for Thanksgiving, here are some important tips on thawing it safely.

If you’ve got a frozen turkey you plan on cooking for Thanksgiving, here are some important tips on thawing it safely.

Ways to Thaw A Frozen Turkey

There are 3 safe ways to defrost a turkey:

The USDA recommends thawing your turkey in the refrigerator. This is the safest method because the turkey will thaw at a consistent, safe temperature.

Thaw your whole turkey breast side up, in its original wrapper, unopened, on a tray in the refrigerator (40º F or below). This method takes the longest, so allow at least 1 day of thawing for every 4-5 lbs of turkey.

2. Cold Water Thawing Method

Thaw your frozen turkey breast side down, in its original wrapper, unopened, with enough cold water to cover your turkey completely.

Change water every 30 minutes and if the turkey cannot be completely covered, rotate every 30 minutes to keep the turkey chilled.

Estimate a minimum thawing time of 30 minutes per lb.With this method, allow 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound. Once the turkey has thawed using this method, cook it immediately.

3. Microwave Method

Before you decide to thaw your turkey in the microwave, check your owner’s manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound, and the power level. The turkey must have ample room on all sides. Remove all wrapping and place the turkey on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak. As a general rule, allow 6 minutes per pound when thawing a turkey in the microwave. Be sure to rotate it several during this process.

If you find that the turkey is starting to cook instead of defrost, let it rest for 5 minutes before you resume this thawing method. Once the turkey has thawed using this method, you should cook it immediately.

A frozen whole turkey is safe indefinitely. As soon as it begins to thaw, however, bacteria that may have been present before freezing will begin to grow again. Once thawed, use within 2-3 days after thawing.

How NOT to Thaw a Turkey

  • NEVER thaw a turkey on the counter.
  • NEVER thaw a turkey in your garage or on the back porch.
  • NEVER thaw a turkey using the dishwasher

NOTE: We cannot say it enough: It’s important to practice food safety when it comes to thawing a turkey. You must keep the whole turkey at a safe temperature throughout the thawing process to prevent bacterial growth that can lead to foodborne illness. 

Still Frozen? How To Cook A Frozen Turkey

If you wake up on Thanksgiving morning and your turkey is still partially frozen, don’t worry, all is not lost. It’s perfectly safe to cook a partially frozen turkey; it will just take longer to cook. Use your food thermometer, and when your bird measures 165˚F in the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast, it is ready.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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