You have your frozen turkey. Now what? Plan ahead to be sure your bird is safe and ready to cook. Do not thaw your frozen turkey on the counter. All parts of the turkey must be kept at a safe temperature during the thawing process and cooked immediately after thawing. Use one or a combination of the following recommended methods:
Keep the turkey in the original wrapper, placing on a tray to catch any leaking juices. Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds. For example, a 12-16-pound turkey may take 3 to 4 days to thaw. A properly thawed turkey will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days before cooking.
Thawing In Cold Water
Keep the turkey in the original wrapper and place in a larger sealed, leak-proof plastic bag. Submerge in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes, until thawed. Allow 30 minutes per pound, so a 12- to 16-pound turkey would take 6-8 hours to thaw. A properly thawed turkey can be stored in the refrigerator.
When it’s Ready to Cook
When the turkey is ready to cook, don’t rinse it. You could splash salmonella and other bacteria around your kitchen. Cook your turkey to the proper temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure the inner thigh, the inner wing, and the thickest part of the turkey breast are all cooked to at least 165°F.
For more information, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
USDA: Let’s Talk Turkey