We have all heard scary stories about the turkey - the star of the Thanksgiving table - still frozen on Thanksgiving morning. Let's break down the turkey thawing options and the time required to avoid the culinary disaster of having a crispy turkey on the outside with a still-raw interior.
If you choose to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator, it will take you about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of frozen bird. Going for a faster cold water method will take about 30 minutes per pound, and you must change the water every 30-40 minutes.
Now let's go into some turkey thawing details, hacks, step-by-step, and FAQs.
Before we get to the part explaining the right way of thawing, let's answer some common questions.
No, you should never thaw your bird on the countertop! Room temperature raw turkey can attract harmful bacteria.
Turkey is a large bird and takes some time to thaw completely, so you should never try to defrost it at room temperature. Once the outside of the turkey thaws to above 40 degrees F (5 degrees C), it enters the “danger zone.” Many types of harmful bacteria will start to multiply fast. Although most of the bacteria will be killed during cooking, the toxin produced by Staphylococcus aureus is heat-resistant and will survive the oven’s heat.
If you plan to defrost a large turkey overnight, unfortunately, there is no way to do it without going against every food safety practice.
In case of a total emergency, make chicken instead, or cook the turkey in parts. You can buy fresh or frozen turkey breasts, drumsticks, thighs, and wings. While it's not your traditional Thanksgiving table centerpiece, it is just as delicious.
No, you really shouldn't. For the same reasons, we've mentioned above. Don't try any crazy hacks like trying to blowdry it with hot air or bathing your Thanksgiving turkey in a jacuzzi...that’s how you end up in an emergency room with food poisoning.
Depends. Are you planning to serve it to people? If the answer is yes, then please don't try to thaw it in the microwave. It will never defrost evenly; some parts will get cooked... just don't.
If you microwave thaw your turkey, it'll be more suitable as a football replacement than consuming as a part of a festive dinner.
We recommend two methods, and the one you choose depends mainly on how much time you have. Option 1 is the easiest but takes longer; Option 2 will save time and is slightly more labor-intensive.
This is the right way to do it, but it does take quite a long defrosting time.
Here's a turkey defrosting chart for the refrigerator method.
This is a quicker way to defrost your bird.
Here's a turkey defrosting chart for the cold water method
You can combine the two methods and speed up the thawing process safely. If your turkey is not yet fully defrosted in the fridge, you can switch to the cold water method and speed up the process a bit. But for the love of pumpkin, please don't attempt any of the unsafe methods mentioned above!
Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipes for you to use once you are done with safely defrosting it. Enjoy!