How to safely thaw a turkey

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and you want it remembered for family and friends, not for foodborne illness.

Along with all of the holiday planning of meals and guest lists, start planning now to defrost that frozen gobbler that will be the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving meal.

So, how do you safely thaw a frozen turkey? There are specific guidelines to follow, based on the weight of the bird. Here are some recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

First and foremost, NEVER thaw a turkey on the kitchen counter or in hot water. Turkey, along with any perishable food, must be kept at a safe temperature while thawing to minimize the danger of bacteria growth that can lead to foodborne illness. Once a thawing turkey becomes warmer than 40 degrees, bacteria, which were present on the turkey before freezing, begin to multiply very quickly.

There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven. The methods are outlined below, so you can pick your plan of action.

Refrigerator thawing

A frozen turkey will require at least 24 hours of defrost time for every 4-5 pounds of weight. So, if your bird weighs 16–20 pounds, it will require 4–5 days to thaw. After the thawing is complete, the bird should stay safe in your refrigerator for an additional day or two before cooking.

Cold Water thawing

This method is faster than thawing in the refrigerator, but requires more attention. Keep the bird in its original packaging, and submerge it in cold tap water. Make sure to change the water every 30 minutes, to keep it cold. This method takes about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Once thawed, cook the turkey immediately.

Microwave thawing

After thawing the turkey in your microwave, cook immediately due to areas of unsafe temperatures during the thawing process.


Posted: November 12, 2018

Category: Food Safety, Health & Nutrition, Work & Life
Tags: Cook, Defrost, Food Safety, Pgm_FCS, Prepare, Thanksgiving, Thaw, Turkey

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