Turkey Thawing Tips

Turkey Thawing Tips
For many, Thursday will be filled with turkey, football, family, and pumpkin pie, but for some it can also include illness from improperly prepared food. Learn how to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey safely.

Thawing Your Turkey

Your frozen turkey is safe from the bacteria that grow on food, but the minute it starts to thaw, bacteria can begin to multiply. Your turkey will be safe from bacteria as long as it remains at a temperature below 40° Fahrenheit. It is important to make sure your turkey is thawed before you place it in the oven, since unthawed turkeys take a long time to thoroughly cook and do not cook evenly. You can safely thaw your turkey in one of three ways: in the refrigerator, in the microwave, and in cold water.

In the Refrigerator

The refrigerator is a great way to thaw your turkey safely, but requires that you plan ahead since it takes multiple days to thaw your turkey this way. Before you begin thawing your turkey in the refrigerator, place it in a container so that the juices do not run onto your other food. The time it takes for your turkey to thaw will depend on how much it weighs. The general rule is that you should keep your turkey in the fridge for one day for every five pounds. Use the chart below to determine how long you should keep your turkey in the refrigerator.

4-12 pounds: 1-3 days
12-16 pounds: 3-4 days
16-20 pounds: 4-5 days
20-24 pounds: 5-6 days

In the Microwave

The microwave is a great way to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey if you are short on time or refrigerator space. Turkeys typically come with directions for microwave thawing on the package. Make sure to follow these directions exactly in order to prevent bacteria and to ensure that your turkey cooks properly in the oven. If you thaw your turkey in the microwave, it needs to be immediately placed in the oven once thaw. Since the food will be partially cooked, allowing it to sit around will cause bacteria to begin growing on the surface.

In Cold Water

Cold water thawing takes less time than the refrigerator, and can most likely be done in your kitchen sink. Place your turkey in a leak proof plastic bag to prevent water from mixing with the turkey. Submerge the bag in a sink of cold tap water. It is important to change the water every thirty minutes to keep the water cool. Generally, the turkey will need to be submerged for a half hour per pound. See the chart below to determine the length of time your turkey will need.

4-12 pounds: 2-6 hours
12-16 pounds: 6-8 hours
16-20 pounds: 8-10 hours
20-24 pounds: 10-12 hours

Click here for information on how to safely cook your Thanksgiving turkey and other food preparation tips.

A great almost instant-read meat thermometer available at Amazon.com

Drip-free basters make Thanksgiving turkey easier to make from Amazon.com

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