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How To Thaw a Frozen Turkey for Thanksgiving

Frozen turkeys are convenient, bought in advance, and ready to serve to a crowd...until it comes time for the big task of thawing those birds. Luckily, these easy defrosting methods will get you on track for an unforgettable Thanksgiving dinner!
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Created from scratch in the SideChef Kitchen, where recipe inspiration and ingredient experimentation are a way of life.
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Turkey Time

During the Thanksgiving turkey rush, many farmers, including the ones we work with, begin preparing for the holiday weeks in advance, freezing turkeys to ensure that they’re perfectly fresh when they get to you. Here's how to easily thaw your turkey in time for your big meal. (Don’t attempt to cook a frozen turkey, unless you want a bird with overcooked skin and a still-raw interior.)

Get to Thawing

There are two recommended methods, and the one you choose depends largely on how much time you have. Option 1 is the easiest, but takes longer; Option 2 will save time but is slightly more labor-intensive. Either way, never thaw your bird on the countertop! Room temperature raw turkey can attract harmful bacteria.

Option 1: Refrigerator Thawing

Place the turkey on a tray at the bottom of the refrigerator, breast side up. Allow at least one day of thawing for every 4 lbs. of turkey. Therefore, a 12-lb. turkey will take about 3 days to fully defrost.

Option 2: Cold Water Thawing

Place the turkey in a cooler or tub large enough to cover it completely with cold water, breast side down. Change the water every 30-60 minutes to keep the turkey chilled, and plan on one pound thawing every 30 minutes. Therefore, a 12-lb. turkey will take about 6 hours to fully defrost.

Smoking Gun

GLUTEN-FREEPEANUT-FREE

Smoked Turkey

How to BBQ Right

Once you try this smoked turkey recipe, you’ll never cook turkey any other way.

Bacon is Better

PEANUT-FREETREE NUT-FREE

Bacon-Wrapped Turkey

Sumopocky

Are you ready to make this beautiful, juicy turkey? Don't feel daunted by the long list of ingredients; the steps are simple and the results are amazing!

Turkey in No-Time

PEANUT-FREETREE NUT-FREE

Herb-Roasted Spatchcock Turkey and Gravy

Lauren Holdcroft at SideChef

By removing the backbone of the bird (spatchcocking) before you roast, you not only cut the roasting time in half and ensure perfectly cooked meat throughout the entire turkey, but that backbone and the drippings become the foundation for the best gravy you’ll ever have!

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