The ways of thawing Frozen Turkey

The ways of thawing Frozen Turkey

Key Takeaways

1. Discover safe and effective methods to thaw a frozen turkey, ensuring it’s perfectly defrosted for your meal.

2. Learn the importance of avoiding common thawing mistakes to ensure food safety and prevent bacterial growth.

3. Understand the significance of thawing time based on the turkey’s weight and the method used, whether it’s in the refrigerator, cold water, or microwave.

4. Get tips on handling and storing a thawed turkey, including the possibility of refreezing and identifying spoilage signs.

It takes time to thaw a frozen turkey. However, there are few options if you have time in hand. Special care is taken to defrost your frozen Thanksgiving turkey, as some ways are not safe like defrosting it on the kitchen counter.

We are presented with some difficult choices in life. Those choices have a clear wrong and a clear right, however, these choices get unclear with time. Yes, under specific situations, some stress, and illogical thinking, the wrong option starts seeming right.

Like for example, a turkey is a frozen solid. And you would love to have it unfrozen in time to make an impressive recipe. What you will do? Can you leave a turkey overnight to thaw itself? The answer to this question is No.

In this article, we will discuss the safest and the wrong ways to thaw a turkey to have it for dinner. So let’s start.

How long to thaw a turkey?

Thawing a turkey mainly depends on the bird’s weight however, there are some other factors like the refrigerator is not closed properly or either the turkey is natural or injected.

Proper thawing is required before seasoning and roasting a delicious turkey.  Buying and handling a turkey is a difficult task and once you are a master then freeze it till you want to have it for dinner.

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Ways of thawing a turkey:

Go through the guidelines mentioned below related to thawing a turkey and the selection of method and length of the time that is best suited for you, either a last-minute solution or plan-ahead cooking.

Some of the ways to thaw a frozen turkey are:

  • Slow
  • Medium
  • Fast

1. Slow: Refrigerator thawing:

This is the safest and the best way to thaw any meat, fish, and, poultry. Few days ahead planning is required to fully thaw a bird. Never allow the bird to defrost at room temperature.

How long it takes:

  • For every 5 pound turkey, 24 hours approximately is required.
  • Three days are taken to thaw a 15- pound bird completely.

Tips for thawing a turkey in the refrigerator:

  • While the turkey is thawing, keep it in the original packing.
  • The breast-side is placed upon the baking pan to avoid any drips from befouling of other food items and the surface of the fridge.
  • The turkey is left in the fridge until it is thawed fully.
  • Please keep it in the fridge for almost four days before cooking.
  • More freshness and the better taste is achieved as sooner as you cook the turkey and get some space in the refrigerator.
  • As compared to natural turkeys, the injected ones take a longer time.
  • One extra day is required if the turkey is injected with a solution of salt, spices, or water.
  • The package is read carefully.
  • We found most turkeys handled with this solution though it is mentioned all-natural on the package.
  • Don’t worry, the solution is just to add flavour and keep the turkey moist.

Turkey Thawing Chart:

  • One day: 3 to 4 pounds.
  • Two days: 4 to 8 pounds.
  • Three days: 8 to 12 pounds.
  • Four days: 12 to 16 pounds.
  • Five days: 16 to 20 pounds.
  • Six days: 20 to 24 days.

2. Medium: Thaw in Coldwater:

How long it takes:

For every pound of turkey,  approximately 30 minutes is required. About 7 ½ to 8 hours are taken by a 15- pound bird to completely thaw.

Tips for thawing a turkey in cold water:

  • The turkey is placed in a large, leak-proof plastic bag and kept in original packing. The bag is squeezed to remove extra air, and the bag is sealed.
  • The sealed bag is placed in a bucket or sinks large enough with breast-side down, so that whole of the turkey is submerged.
  • The container is filled with cold water, and the turkey should be covered with a plate and to keep it submerged completely the heavy cans are placed on top.
  • Every 30 minutes, the cold water is changed.
  • After thawing the turkey is cooked immediately.
  • The method used to defrost turkey a day before roasting and refrigerated until the time of cooking.

Possibly a combination of two methods can be used. For the first two days of thawing, use the fridge and finish it in the sink.

Thawing in cold water is faster as compared to defrosting in the refrigerator. However, it is not safe to leave the turkey in cold water to defrost overnight.

Turkey thawing Chart:

  • 2 to 6 hours: 4 – 12 pounds.
  • 6 to 8 hours: 12 – 16 pounds.
  • 10 to 12 hours: 20 – 24 pounds.

3. Fast: Thaw in a Microwave Oven:

How long it takes?

For thawing a frozen turkey, the oven user manual is read thoroughly to get instructions. The settings of power and times are different for every model. Generally, depending on the size of the turkey, it could take an hour or more for thawing.

Tips for thawing a turkey in the microwave:

  • The turkey must be taken out of its sealing, and metal clips or tags are removed.
  • The breast-side of the turkey is placed upon the microwave-safe plate to hold any drips.
  • For the prevention of cross-contamination, the inside of the microwave is washed after the thawing of a turkey.
  • After thawing the turkey should be cooked immediately.

How to speed up thawing in a Pinch:

This thing happened to many of us. We assumed we had given maximum time to turkey to defrost quickly in the fridge and found out its icy. To still enjoy a turkey following things need to speed up.

  • Refrigerator and sink-thawing methods are combined.
  • Defrosted turkey is taken out of the fridge and allow to defrost in the sink as long as it takes.
  • This can be done one day before roasting a turkey.
  • The cold water is made to run through and over the cavity of the defrosted turkey.

Safety tip:

Clean the sink properly from inside and around it to avoid the juices of the raw meat to touch anything else.

Do not thaw your turkey on the counter:

A big frozen solid turkey should not be thawed on the counter nor should it be tucked with a hot water bottle or favorite blanket.

Why Not?

Large meats like roasts and turkeys require much time to thaw. As the turkeys out defrost to above 40 degrees F, it goes in the zone of danger and any type of bacteria present inside the turkey rapidly multiplies.

The bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, produce a chemical that causes illness.  A large number of bacteria will be damaged while cooking however, this toxic bacteria is resistant to heat and will not get killed by the oven’s heat.

2. Do not give your turkey a hot bath.

If thawing on the shelf is not recommended so think about a hot water bath to speed up the process however, this method does surely solve many issues. For your frozen turkey,  this is not the best solution.

Why not a hot water bath?

This method of hot or warm water will take the turkey to the danger zone fast as compared to leaving it on the shelf.

Warm temperatures create more toxins, and bacteria get multiplied quickly.

So this method is also not a safe option.

3. Do not treat your turkey to a blow-dry.

Wondering that using a blow-dry to thaw a turkey will give you a solution then you are wrong.

Why not?

If you think a hot blow dry will be a solution to all your problems, then you are wrong. However, if you can defrost from both inside and outside at the same time, it is very difficult to obtain the defrosted turkey in a safe period.

Can you cook a frozen turkey?

The answer to this question is yes.Turkey can be cooked directly from the frozen turkey. The process is a bit longer; however, you can still enjoy a delicious turkey.


When it comes to defrosting a turkey, we cannot over-emphasize and think about the safety of food. To prevent the growth of bacteria and other food-borne diseases, it is important the turkey at an optimum temperature suitable for the turkey. It is concluded to never defrost a turkey on the kitchen shelf or hot water. It is a very simple method to thaw a turkey and requires very little time to start and end the process.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can you refreeze a turkey that has been thawed?

The defrosted turkey can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days. A properly thawed turkey can be refrozen.

Is it safe to eat a turkey frozen for 2 years?

According to studies, the turkey can be stored in the fridge for more than 2 years and is safe to cook and eat. USDA concluded that the frozen turkey can be used within the first storage year.

How do I know if my turkey went bad?

The smell and texture of the turkey tell you about the spoilage of a turkey. The studies revealed that the spoiled turkey has a smell of rotten eggs and the skin turns slimy.