How to Thaw a Turkey –
all the information you need in one place to get your bird ready to cook for a small group or a crowd!
You will want to save this one!
It never fails, every year I have to dust off the cobwebs in my brain to remember all the details of properly thawing a turkey before Thanksgiving. The tricky part is that every turkey is a different size depending on how many people we are hosting, sometimes I buy the turkey early and I have lots of time, sometimes I wait until the last minute and have very little time, and sometimes I just need a small turkey breast. It’s hard to remember what to do in all of those different situations! So…. we have just what you need! All the information in one place for thawing a turkey in any situation!
HOW TO PICK A TURKEY
A good rule of thumb is to buy about one pound of turkey for every person that you will be serving. So if you have 15 people coming to dinner, you would want a 15 pound turkey. If you want to have leftovers (yes, please!) then you will want to add in about another 1/2 pound per person. You might only need a small turkey breast if you are cooking for only a few people.
If you need any help with the calculations you can checkout this handy turkey calculator.
HOW TO THAW IN THE REFRIGERATOR
This will be the slowest way to thaw your turkey. You will want to allow about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. So if your turkey is 15 pounds that will take about 3 days.
- Keep the turkey in the wrapping
- Place your turkey breast side up in a pan to prevent any drippings from getting all over your fridge.
- Once the turkey is thawed in the fridge it can continue to stay there for up to 2 days before cooking – this is one perk to thawing in the fridge!
HOW TO THAW IN COLD WATER
This is a quicker way to thaw a turkey and probably the one that I use most often. You will want to allow for about 30 minutes for every pound of turkey. So if your turkey is 15 pounds that will take 7.5 hours.
- Keep the turkey in the wrapping
- Place the turkey breast side down in a sink, bucket, or cooler large enough to completely submerge the bird once water is added
- Fill your sink, bucket, or cooler with COLD water and make sure you change the water every 30 minutes
- Once it is thawed you will want to immediately cook the turkey
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO THAW A TURKEY – QUICK GUIDE ON THAW TIMES
|Thawing Time (Refrigerator)||Thawing Time (Cold Water)|
Up to 12 lbs
|1-3 days||2-6 hours|
HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR TURKEY IS COMPLETELY THAWED
You will want to put your hand inside the bird to see if there are any ice crystals on the inside. You can also poke around the large meat portions with a fork to make sure that there aren’t any frozen parts. If it is too hard to poke then it is still partially frozen.
WHAT IF I NEED TO THAW A TURKEY BREAST?
You will want to follow the same thawing instructions above and calculate thaw times based on the size of your turkey breast. The thaw times should be pretty short overall since a turkey breast is typically a smaller size than a full turkey.
A FEW FAQs
- Can I thaw a turkey at room temperature? No! Do not leave your turkey out a room temperature. It should always be in a fridge or in water until you are ready to prep it for cooking.
- Can I still cook the turkey if it is partially frozen? Yes, but it will affect your cook times and will take longer. The exception here is deep frying – NEVER deep fry a turkey unless it is 100% thaw.
- How long can a turkey be kept in the freezer before thawing and cooking? If the turkey is kept frozen and unopened you could keep it for up to 2-3 years but for best quality it is recommended to eat within 1 year.
- How do I know if my turkey has gone bad? Usually the skin starts to look a little slimy and it will have a “rotten egg” smell.
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