Defrost a frozen turkey for the holidays
You just finished your holiday grocery shopping and it’s time to prepare for the feast! Of course, the centerpiece of your big dinner is the turkey. But, how are you going to thaw it in time? Thawing or defrosting a turkey in your refrigerator is the most popular method, but you can also use cold water or even your microwave. This guide will help you properly thaw your turkey so it’s fresh and ready to cook.
Defrost in your refrigerator
According to the USDA, defrosting a frozen turkey in your refrigerator is the recommended method. Because it will take a few days depending on the weight of your turkey, you should use this method in advance of the holiday. The following steps can be used to thaw your turkey in a fridge:
Keeping the turkey in its original wrapper, place it on a large tray in your refrigerator. You may want to rearrange some of the shelves to make room for the turkey. For instructions specific to your refrigerator, please see our refrigerator guide for moving bins, shelves, and drawers.
To calculate the amount of time your turkey will need to thaw, refer to its weight. On average, one full day of thawing is required for each 4-5 pounds. So, a 16 pound turkey will take four days to thaw.
Check on your turkey throughout the required days to make sure it is thawing.
You can keep your turkey in the refrigerator for another two or three days after it's been thawed if needed. After that, it’s time to cook your turkey! Keeping it any longer is not a good idea because it may spoil.
Note: Do you have frost in your refrigerator and you were looking for information about how to defrost your fridge, instead? See our guide for more troubleshooting steps including how to clear away the frost.
Defrost in cold water
Using cold water is another method for defrosting your frozen turkey. You should use this method the night before or the morning of your holiday dinner, depending on the weight of your turkey and when you need the turkey defrosted by. The following steps can be used to thaw your turkey in cold water:
Fill your sink or an empty, clean container with cold water.
Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Then, place it in the water and make sure it’s fully submerged.
To calculate the amount of time your turkey will need to thaw, refer to its weight. For example, one pound will equate to 30 minutes of thawing time. If your turkey is 16 pounds, it will take 8 hours to thaw using cold water.
Change the water every 30 minutes to make sure it’s fresh and cold throughout the process. While doing this, check the turkey to make sure it is thawing.
When the required time has passed, cook your turkey right away.
Defrost in your microwave
There is a third method for defrosting your frozen turkey, which is using your microwave. This method depends on your microwave’s size and defrost function. If your microwave is not large enough to fit your turkey, then you should use your refrigerator or the cold water method instead. Additionally, this method should be used the morning of your holiday dinner. The following steps can be used to thaw your turkey in a microwave:
Remove the turkey’s wrapping and place it on a microwave-safe dish or tray. Then, place it in the microwave and use the defrost option.
This method is based on the turkey’s weight; it should defrost for 6 minutes per 1 pound. So, a 16 pound turkey should remain in the microwave for 96 minutes, or roughly 1 and a half hours.
During this time, rotate and flip the turkey as necessary to ensure it defrosts evenly.
Cook the turkey right away when it’s finished defrosting.