How To Thaw A Frozen Turkey Safely

November 22, 2015, by Ken Jorgustin


To thaw a frozen turkey in a safe way, takes time. So you need to plan ahead and not find yourself behind schedule serving that important turkey dinner πŸ˜‰

Thanksgiving will soon be upon us and the traditional turkey dinner will be served across much of the U.S.; so for the sake of modern survival during the turkey dinner, here is how-to safely thaw a frozen turkey using either of the following two methods:

(Re-posted for this year’s Thanksgiving…)


Refrigerator-Fridge Thawing

Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. It’s the easiest method for defrosting a turkey. However it also takes a fairly long time, so you will need to plan ahead.

Keep the frozen turkey in its original, unopened wrapper. Place it breast side up in a container or tray that will prevent the turkey juices from dripping on other foods in the refrigerator.

Be sure that your refrigerator temperature dial is set to 40Β°F or below. Use a fridge thermometer to check this.

Allow about 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds of frozen turkey you plan to thaw in the fridge.

Turkey thaw time in the fridge

To thaw a whole frozen turkey,

10 pounds β€” 2 ½ days
15 pounds β€” 3 ½ days
20 pounds β€” 5 days
25 pounds β€” 6 days

Do you have to cook the frozen turkey as soon as it’s thawed?

No, you don’t have to cook it right away. Turkey that has been thawed in the refrigerator can be kept for an additional 1 to 2 days in the fridge before cooking.



Cold Water Thawing

You can thaw a frozen turkey faster in cold water than in the fridge. However, the thawing process will require a lot more attention on your behalf.

Make sure the frozen turkey is in a leak-proof package or plastic bag.

To thaw the turkey, submerge the bag in a large enough container or pot holding cold tap water. NEVER use warm or hot water, as that can cause the outer layer to warm up to a temperature where harmful bacteria begins to multiply rapidly.

Change the water often enough to ensure that it stays cold enough to thaw safely. Although the frozen turkey itself will initially keep the water quite cool, as it thaws further, this could mean every hour or thereabouts.

Using this thawing method, you should estimate about 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound of turkey.

Time to thaw a whole turkey in cold water

10 pounds β€” 5 hours
15 pounds β€” 7 hours
20 pounds β€” 10 hours
25 pounds β€” 12 hours

If you’ve used the cold water method to thaw your turkey, it is recommended that you should cook the turkey as soon as it is completely thawed.

You should not refreeze raw turkey that has been thawed in cold water. Once you’ve cooked the turkey though, you can then refreeze it if you wish.

NOTE: If the turkey was frozen in a VERY COLD deep freeze (e.g. -10 in a chest freezer), the times listed might take a little bit longer. Your results will vary, but hopefully this gives you something of an idea…