Kitchen Tips

How to Thaw a Frozen Turkey

Thawing a frozen turkey improperly allows bacteria to grow, which can lead to food-borne illness. The last thing you want on Thanksgiving is to make everyone in the family sick!

how to thaw a frozen turkey

These tips for safely thawing a turkey require planning ahead, but will help ensure that you stay safe and healthy over the holidays.

Refrigerator Thawing (Best and Safest Method)

The refrigerator is the safest, easiest place to thaw frozen turkey. This thawing process will take a lot of time, however, so you need to plan ahead.

Place the turkey in the refrigerator inside a large baking dish or other container. It’s important to keep the turkey contained so that juices don’t drip onto other foods and contaminate them with bacteria.

Let the turkey thaw for at least 24 hours per 4 or 5 pounds. In other words, allow 3 to 4 days for a 12- to 16-pound turkey, 4 to 5 days for a 16- to 20-pound turkey, or 5 to 6 days for a 20- to 24-pound turkey.

cold water turkey thawing

Cold Water Thawing

Keep the turkey in sealed plastic packaging and into a sink filled with cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes with fresh cold water. Let the turkey thaw for about 30 minutes per pound.

This isn’t a slow method – thawing a 20-pound turkey will take 10 hours – but it’s faster than the days needed for refrigerator thawing.

Cook the turkey immediately after thawing it in cold water to prevent bacterial growth. Also, remember to sterilize your sink afterwards, in case it was contaminated with juices from the meat.

Microwave Thawing

Another option is to microwave your turkey. This should only be done if the turkey will be cooked immediately after it’s thawed. Remove all wrapping and place the bird on a microwave-safe dish that’s large enough to catch the juices.

Microwave on the “defrost” setting according to the manufacturer’s instructions for 6 minutes per pound of turkey rotating and flipping it during the process. (Time will vary depending on the size and power of your microwave, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual before getting started)

How NOT to Thaw a Turkey

  • Don’t thaw frozen turkey at room temperature
  • Don’t leave your turkey outdoors
  • Don’t submerge in hot water
  • Don’t leave out on counter
  • Don’t use a blow dryer
how to cook a thawed turkey

How to Cook a Turkey Once it’s Thawed

Once the turkey is thawed, it is important to cook it immediately. To cook a thawed turkey, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the turkey on a roasting pan and cook for the recommended amount of time based on its weight and when it reaches an internal safe temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once cooked through, remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Another way of cooking is turkey is the air fryer method. It’s so easy to cook without the mess and no brining required and results in juicy meat and crispy skin.


What is the best way to thaw a frozen turkey?

The best way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator, because it is the safest method. However, it does require advance planning, but if you’re short on time, you can use another way such as the cold water or microwave method.

How long does it take to thaw a frozen turkey?

It takes about 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. So, if you have a 12-pound turkey, it will take 2-3 days to thaw in the fridge.

Can I speed up the process?

Yes, there are a few ways to speed up the process. One is to submerge the wrapped turkey in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Another way is to use the microwave. Follow the directions on your microwave and above for defrosting times.

Can I cook my turkey while it’s still frozen?

It is safe to cook your turkey from the frozen state, but it will take about 50% longer to cook. So, if your turkey normally takes 4 hours to cook, plan on 6 hours if it’s frozen. Check the temperature by inserting a food thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, away from any bone. The turkey is done when the thermometer reads 165°F.

Why do you need to thaw a frozen turkey?

There are a few reasons why it’s important to thaw your turkey before cooking it. For one, if you don’t thaw it out, the outside of the turkey will start to cook before the inside is thawed, which can lead to an unevenly cooked bird.

Additionally, a frozen turkey takes longer to cook, so if you don’t give it enough time to thaw, you risk undercooking it (and no one wants dry, overcooked turkey).

How long does it take to thaw a frozen turkey?

It is best to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator as opposed to other methods. Depending on the size of your bird, it can take anywhere from 24 hours to 5 days to defrost.

What are some safety tips for thawing a frozen turkey?

If you’re thawing a frozen turkey, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to ensure it’s done safely.

  • First, make sure the turkey is completely thawed before cooking. If it’s not fully thawed, it won’t cook evenly and could potentially make you sick.
  • Second, be sure to cook the turkey immediately after thawing. Once a turkey is thawed, bacteria can start to grow, so it’s important to cook it right away.
  • Finally, if you’re using a microwave to thaw your turkey, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Microwaves can cause food to cook unevenly, so it’s important to use the proper settings and monitor the turkey closely while it’s thawing.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your Thanksgiving feast is safe and delicious!

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