How do you thaw a turkey? Here are 3 safe ways to defrost your bird for Thanksgiving

Here are some quick and safe ways to thaw a turkey, even at the very last minute.

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Friday, November 18, 2022
Here are 3 safe ways to thaw a turkey for Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is almost here, and whether you're planning ahead or forget to defrost the turkey, the USDA says there are three ways to safely thaw a frozen bird.

Thanksgiving is almost here! If you're planning to cook the big bird, the USDA says there are three ways to safely thaw a frozen turkey.

Refrigerator Thawing

Every four to five pounds of turkey will require 24-hours of thaw time in the refrigerator, according to the USDA.

"If your turkey weighs 16 pounds, it will take about four days to thaw. Once thawed, the turkey is safe for another two days, so you can start thawing it six days before Thanksgiving (the Friday before Thanksgiving)," recommends the USDA.

Thawing your turkey in the refrigerator is the safest method because the turkey will thaw at a consistent, safe temperature, USDA says.

But, if you forget to thaw the turkey and need to do it quickly, don't panic! There are other ways.

The USDA recommends the following:

Cold Water Thawing

"For the cold water method, leave the turkey in its original wrapping and submerge it in a sink (or container) full of cold water. It is important that the water be cold so that the turkey stays at a safe temperature. You should change the water every 30 minutes. Empty out the water and replace it with fresh cold water. With this method, allow 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound, so a 16-pound turkey will take 8 hours to thaw using this method (so you might need to start around 4 a.m. if you want to eat in the afternoon!). Once the turkey has thawed, cook it immediately."

Microwave Thawing

"Before you commit to thawing 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 to use when thawing a turkey. Remove all outside wrapping and place the turkey on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak. Use the defrost function based on weight. As a general rule, allow six minutes per pound when thawing a turkey in the microwave. Be sure to rotate it several times, and even flip it, during the thawing process."

What if the turkey starts to actually cook instead of just defrost?

The USDA says to let it rest for about five minutes before you resume thawing.

"Partway through thawing, you may wish to cover the tips of the wings and drumsticks with a small piece of foil to shield them from the microwaves and keep them from cooking. Once the turkey has thawed you should cook it immediately," said the USDA.

If you are worried about using aluminum foil in the microwave, the USDA says it's actually ok to use foil in the microwave in small amounts.

So, what if your turkey is still icy on Thanksgiving morning? The USDA says it's perfectly safe to cook a frozen turkey, it will just take longer to cook.

"A solidly frozen turkey will take at least 50% longer to cook than a thawed turkey," said the USDA. "If your turkey is only partially frozen, remember that it will take a bit longer to cook. Use your food thermometer, and when your bird measures 165F in the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast, it is ready."

Click here for more tips on safe thawing methods.

This story was originally published in November 2020.