Caution: Caveman Cooking

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Thawing Your Turkey

Posted by Caveman Cooking on November 18, 2010

If your Thanksgiving turkey is frozen, you are going to need to make some plans in the next several days to start defrosting it. The method you choose, and the size of your bird, will determine when you need to commence the thawing process in order to guarantee you won’t be left with a giant odd-shaped curling stone on the big day.
When defrosting a turkey it is critical to follow strict guidelines so as to not poison yourself and your guests with some bacteria borne illness. Personally, I don’t like the microwave method because the bird usually starts to cook in the process. So, I try to follow one of two thawing procedures, the Refrigerator Method (the slow, and best way) or the Cold Water Method (the quick way).

Refrigerator Method (Recommended)

For this procedure it is important to really plan ahead. You need to allow about 24 hours for every 5 pounds in a fridge set to 40 °F. Here are the approximate times to thaw a whole Turkey:

8 to 12 pounds -> 1 to 2 days
12 to 16 pounds -> 2 to 3 days
16 to 20 pounds -> 3 to 4 days
20 to 24 pounds -> 4 to 5 days

Cold Water Method (Acceptable)

Make sure the turkey is in leak-proof packaging … they absorb water like crazy. Cover the turkey completely in cold water. Be sure to change the water every so often and allow about 30 minutes per pound when thawing a turkey this way.

8 to 12 pounds -> 4 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds -> 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds -> 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds -> 10 to 12 hours

Either brine or cook your turkey immediately upon completing one of the above defrosting methods. By following these simple steps your bird should be safe to eat and, next year, your guests won’t be making up strange excuses as to why they can’t join you for Thanksgiving. 😉

©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

10 Responses to “Thawing Your Turkey”

  1. My turkey is pretty much unthawed, one of them anyway, the smaller one is frozen solid. ( I know it sounds odd, but one is 22 lbs for a catering event, and the other is ours) I am brining the two together. Can i start anytime?

    • First of all, you don’t want to brine a frozen turkey. You definitely want to defrost it first.
      Second, once you completely thaw a turkey, you really should either brine it or cook it right away.
      Last, I don’t like to brine my bird for much more than 24 hours. Perhaps 36 hours, but that’s pushing it.
      Have a great event, and Thanksgiving!

  2. Cyndie said

    My turkey feels like it is thawed. It is in it’s own bag still, but I do not want to start preparing it until Wednesday, then cooking on Thursday. Will it still be safe to wait another day before preparing it. I bought it on Saturday frozen, so it will in the refrigerator uncooked for 4 days. Thank you for your help.

  3. Boy Caveman, I wish I had this post sooner. Seattle is freezing and so is my garage where the turkey has been thawing in a cooler. The garage is 20 degrees. No wonder it’s taking too long to thaw! Oh well, at least we have ham, and a long weekend to cook turkey. 🙂

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