How To Defrost A Turkey

If you’ve found yourself in a last-minute scramble to defrost your turkey, don’t panic! We’ve got you covered with this comprehensive guide on how to defrost a turkey quickly and safely.

Whether you’re hosting a big family gathering or simply craving a delicious roast, we’ll walk you through the best methods to thaw your turkey in no time.

With a little planning and the right technique, you’ll have a perfectly defrosted turkey ready to go for your next feast.

Key Takeaways

  • The recommended methods for defrosting a turkey include microwave defrosting, hairdryer defrosting, refrigerator thawing, and cold water thawing.
  • When thawing in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours per 4-5 pounds of turkey, keep it in the original packaging on a tray, and maintain a temperature below 40°F.
  • If you need to speed up the defrosting process, you can use cold water thawing by submerging the turkey in a sink or container filled with cold water and changing the water every 30 minutes.
  • It is important to follow safety precautions to avoid bacterial growth and foodborne illnesses, such as not using hot water or thawing at room temperature, and changing the water every 30 minutes during cold water thawing.

Choosing the Right Defrosting Method

When defrosting a turkey, it’s important to choose the right defrosting method. Two common methods for defrosting a turkey quickly are using a microwave or a hairdryer.

If you choose to defrost your turkey in the microwave, make sure to remove all packaging and place the turkey on a microwave-safe plate. Set the microwave to the defrost setting and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the weight of your turkey. Remember to rotate the turkey every 30 minutes to ensure even defrosting.

Another method is using a hairdryer. Start by setting the hairdryer to the lowest heat setting and hold it about 6 inches away from the turkey. Move the hairdryer around the turkey, ensuring that all areas are evenly defrosted. Be patient and avoid using high heat, as it can cook the outer layer of the turkey.

Thawing in the Refrigerator

To safely thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, you’ll need to allow enough time for it to thaw completely. Thawing in the refrigerator is the recommended method as it ensures proper temperature control and minimizes the risk of bacterial growth.

The general rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. This means that a 12-pound turkey will take approximately 2-3 days to thaw completely in the refrigerator.

It is important to keep the turkey in its original packaging and place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. Make sure the refrigerator temperature is set at 40°F or below to maintain food safety.

Speeding up the Defrosting Process

If you’re in a hurry, you can speed up the process by using the cold water thawing method.

However, there’s another option that can save you even more time: microwave defrosting. This method involves using your microwave to defrost the turkey quickly and safely.

To do this, you’ll need to remove any packaging or wrapping from the turkey and place it in a microwave-safe dish. Set the microwave to the defrost setting and enter the weight of the turkey. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific microwave model.

Another option to speed up the process is by using a turkey defrosting bag. These specially designed bags help to defrost the turkey faster by keeping it in contact with cold water while preventing any bacterial contamination. Make sure to follow the instructions on the bag for best results.

Defrosting in Cold Water

Using the cold water method, you can speed up the defrosting process when you’re in a hurry. Simply follow these steps to defrost your turkey quickly and safely:

  • Fill a clean sink or large container with cold water.
  • Place the turkey, still in its packaging, in the water, making sure it’s fully submerged.
  • Change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold and prevent bacterial growth.

Defrosting in hot water or using the microwave may seem like quicker options, but they come with risks. Defrosting in hot water can partially cook the turkey, leading to uneven cooking and potential foodborne illnesses. Microwaving can also cause uneven defrosting and may partially cook the turkey as well.

It’s best to stick with the cold water method as it is the safest and most effective way to defrost your turkey in a hurry.

Ensuring Food Safety during Thawing

Changing the water every 30 minutes helps to keep it cold and prevent bacterial growth during the defrosting process.

Proper food handling during thawing is of utmost importance to ensure food safety. Thawing a turkey incorrectly can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria, which can cause foodborne illnesses.

One common mistake to avoid is thawing a turkey at room temperature. This allows the outer layers to thaw while the interior remains frozen, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to multiply.

Another mistake is thawing a turkey on the countertop for extended periods. This can cause the turkey to reach temperatures within the danger zone, where bacteria can rapidly grow.

To ensure food safety, always thaw the turkey in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave following proper guidelines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I defrost a turkey on the countertop?

No, it is not recommended to defrost a turkey on the countertop. This method can promote bacterial growth and increase the risk of foodborne illnesses. It is safer to defrost a turkey in the refrigerator or using the cold water method.

How long does it take to defrost a turkey in the refrigerator?

To defrost a turkey in the refrigerator, it typically takes 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds. This method is the safest and most recommended, unlike alternative thawing techniques such as countertop defrosting.

Can I defrost a turkey in the microwave?

Yes, you can defrost a turkey in the microwave as an alternative method. However, it is important to follow the microwave’s instructions for defrosting and ensure the turkey is cooked immediately after thawing to prevent bacterial growth.

Is it safe to refreeze a turkey that has been partially thawed?

No, it is not safe to refreeze a turkey that has been partially thawed. Refreezing can increase the risk of bacterial growth and foodborne illnesses. It is important to prioritize food safety and cook the turkey thoroughly before consumption.

Can I cook a turkey directly from frozen?

You can cook a frozen turkey directly from the freezer, but it will take longer to cook. However, alternative methods of thawing turkey, such as using cold water, can help speed up the process.


In conclusion, defrosting a turkey can be a time-consuming process, but it is crucial for ensuring food safety. By following the proper defrosting methods, such as thawing in the refrigerator or using cold water, you can safely prepare your turkey for cooking.

It is important to note that the average time it takes to thaw a turkey in the refrigerator is 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. So, if you have a 12-pound turkey, it will take approximately 3 days to fully thaw in the refrigerator.

By planning ahead and defrosting your turkey properly, you can enjoy a delicious and safe Thanksgiving meal.