Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and if you’re hosting that big turkey dinner, it’s time to start thinking about how you are going to thaw out your turkey. As you plan your Thanksgiving meal, make sure to plan for time to thaw your turkey in one of the following safe ways:
1. Thaw in the refrigerator.
Thawing your turkey in the refrigerator is safe and easy; it just takes a little advance planning. Thawing a turkey in the refrigerator takes about one day for every five pounds of food, which is why you should plan your thaw now. How big is your turkey? And how long does it need to stay in your fridge?
Here is a handy thaw-time cheat sheet (from How to Thaw a Frozen Turkey):
- 5 pounds: 1 days
- 10 pounds: 2 days
- 15 pounds: 3 days
- 20 pounds: 4 days
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t throw the turkey in the refrigerator as soon as you buy it; you should cook your turkey within a day or two of thawing it, so it’s important to plan the timing of your thaw carefully. When you’re ready to thaw your turkey, place the turkey breast-side-up in a pan deep enough to catch any juices from the thawing process; you don’t want raw meat juice leaking around your refrigerator and contaminating other foods. Then, load your turkey into the fridge.
2. Thaw under cold water.
You can also thaw your turkey under cold water in your sink. This method is safe and significantly faster than thawing in the refrigerator, but it requires more work and attention from you. Leave your turkey in its original packaging and submerge it completely in cold water. If you need to, place a plate stacked with a few cans of food over your turkey to keep it under the water. Replace the water in the sink every 30 minutes as your turkey thaws. Do not ignore this step; it’s very important for keeping your turkey safe to eat.
If you use cold water thawing, budget about 30 minutes of thawing time for every pound of turkey. Here’s another thaw-time cheat sheet (from How to Thaw a Frozen Turkey):
- 5 pounds: 2.5 hours
- 10 pounds: 5 hours
- 15 pounds: 7.5 hours
- 20 pounds: 10 hours
Cook your turkey immediately after it has finished thawing.
3. Thaw in the microwave.
The last way you can safely thaw your turkey is in the microwave; this method works best if you have a smaller turkey (or a large microwave). Check your microwave’s instruction manual for its recommended capacity, power level, and the amount of time it will take to thaw each pound of your turkey. Then, remove the turkey from its packaging. Set your turkey on a microwave safe dish to catch any juices as it thaws. Just like with cold water thawing, you should cook your turkey immediately after it has finished thawing in the microwave.
Here’s one more thing to remember: once your turkey has finished thawing, no matter what method you use, you need to remove the giblets from your turkey before you cook it.
Food Safety Reminder
Thaw food using approved methods, such as in the refrigerator or submerged under cool running water.