How To Defrost and Thaw A Turkey

Raw Turkey Thigh With Spices. Black Background. Top View.

The commotion of preparing a large feast can stress even the most easy-going person out. With trying to prepare a rock-solid frozen turkey, you can easily forget about food safety by thawing your turkey improperly.

Luckily we’ve got you covered and will teach you how to thaw turkey the right way. However, before we discuss how to defrost a turkey, let’s discuss food safety.

Turkey Defrosting Safety Tips

Raw turkey contains bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. You must be careful when dealing with raw turkey and ensure it does not touch any other food, including cooked or ready-to-eat foods. If the turkey comes into contact with these foods, it could taint them and make you sick.

In addition to this, after handling raw turkey, wash your hands really well with hot soapy water before you touch another food or surface. In the same way, wash all surfaces, cutting boards, containers, and washcloths that have come into contact with raw turkey before you use them again to avoid cross-contamination.

When purchasing a turkey, make sure its packaging is free of rips and tears. Rips and tears increase the turkey’s chances to be exposed to other foods or surfaces and possibly contaminate them.

A raw turkey should never be refrozen after it has been thawed. Moreover, if you are defrosting your turkey in the refrigerator, ensure your fridge is below 40°F.

Do not remove the turkey from its package before you defrost it. The only instance in which you should remove it from its packaging is if you are defrosting it in the microwave. In addition to this, remove any metal clips as well as the bag of giblets and neck if you are defrosting it in the microwave.

Place the turkey into a metal container when defrosting it. Foods defrost quicker in metal pans than glass or porcelain dishes.

How Long Will It Take To Defrost A Turkey?

The defrosting time of a turkey depends on how much the turkey weighs. Factors such as how many times the refrigerator is opened and whether or not the turkey is injected can also impact the turkey’s defrosting time.

Nevertheless, the formula for calculating the defrosting time of turkey is 24 hours in the fridge for every 5 pounds of turkey. For example, defrosting a 15-pound turkey would take 3 days for the turkey to thaw completely.

Injected turkeys will take longer to thaw than natural turkeys. Therefore, you must factor in an extra day if your turkey was injected with a combination of water, spices, or salt.

Carefully inspect the package to determine whether the turkey was injected or not. Moist turkeys are injected with a solution, even if it is a natural turkey. However, panicking about the solution is not necessary, as the solution adds moisture and helps the turkey stay moist.

When Should I Defrost A 13 Pound Turkey?

If your turkey is 4-12 pounds, it takes approximately 1-3 days for it to defrost. On the other hand, if your turkey is 12-16 pounds, it will take about 3-4 days to defrost in the refrigerator.

Can My Turkey Sit Out Overnight To Thaw?

In short, the answer is no. Although most of us have thawed meat on the countertop overnight, thawing a turkey on the countertop overnight is not acceptable. Bacteria will multiply rapidly on any meat that sits between 40 °F and 140 °F for more than two hours. Therefore defrosting turkey on the countertop overnight can make you sick.

How To Tell If A Turkey Is Fully Defrosted?

Believe it or not, there are several ways to tell if a turkey is completely thawed. But first, you will need to remove the turkey from its packaging.

Remove the bag of giblets from the turkey’s internal cavity. Place your hand into the turkey’s cavity and feel around the breast bone of the cavity. The cavity should be free of any ice.

Next, press the breast meat. If the breast meat is soft, the turkey is fully defrosted. If the breast meat feels solid, the turkey is still frozen.

Another way to determine if the turkey is defrosted is by wiggling the legs and wings. If the legs and wings are relatively loose, the bird is defrosted. However, if the legs are stiff and cannot be moved, the turkey is not defrosted.

Alternatively, you can also insert s probe thermometer into the thickest part of the leg or breast meat. If the turkey has a temperature at or below 39°F, it is still frozen.

How To Defrost A Turkey

A frozen turkey is safe from bacteria. However, the second the turkey starts to fade, bacteria that were present before the bird was frozen may start to multiply. For this reason, you have to know how to thaw a turkey properly.

Although you may have seen many ways a turkey can be defrosted, there are only 3 ways to defrost a turkey: using the fridge, cold water, or in the microwave.

A turkey should never be defrosted on the countertop, in the back yard, or in the garbage. Furthermore, do not thaw your turkey in a garbage bag or a brown paper or plastic grocery bag. Never thaw a turkey in hot water or in the dishwasher.

How To Defrost Turkey In The Refrigerator

According to the USDA, thawing the turkey in the fridge is the safest way to defrost it. Thawing the turkey in the fridge allows it to defrost at a stable, safe temperature.

The only downside of thawing a turkey in the fridge is that it takes a few days to defrost. A frozen turkey has a shelf life of 6 days in the refrigerator. Therefore, you can thaw your turkey up to 6 days before Thanksgiving.

To thaw turkey in the refrigerator, do not remove it from its packaging. Place the turkey breast side onto a rimmed cookie sheet or roasting pan and place it into a fridge with a temperature of 40°F.

Depending on the size of the turkey, allow 24 hours of defrosting time for every 4 pounds of turkey. Cook the turkey within 2-4 days after it has been defrosted.

How To Defrost A Turkey In Cold Water

To defrost a turkey in cold water, leave it in its original packaging. Place the turkey into a large leak-proof plastic bag. Press as much of the excess air as you can out of the turkey before sealing the bag.

Place the turkey breast-side down into a sink or a clean, food-safe bucket or container that is large enough to hold the turkey. Fill the sink or container with enough cold water to submerge the bird. You may place a plate or heavy pan on top of the bird to keep it submerged in the water.

Make sure you replace the cold water every 30 minutes until the turkey is completely thawed, and cook your turkey immediately after it’s been defrosted.

Alternatively, you can also try a hybrid method. Simply thaw the turkey in the fridge for 2 days, then submerge it in cold water on Thanksgiving day.

How To Defrost A Turkey In The Microwave

Thawing a turkey in the microwave can is the fastest way to defrost a turkey. However, read the instruction manual to ensure the bird can actually fit into your microwave before you attempt to thaw a turkey in the microwave. In addition to this, you should also check the recommended minutes per pound for thawing a turkey.

Remove the frozen turkey from its packaging and place it into a microwave-safe dish. The dish will catch any turkey juices that are released. Remove the giblets from the turkey’s internal cavity.

Press the defrost setting on your microwave.

Depending on how much your turkey weighs, it will take about 6 minutes per pound to defrost a turkey. Rotate the turkey multiple times and turn it over while it is defrosting in the fridge.

If your turkey begins to thaw, allow it to rest for 5 minutes, then continue to thaw it in the microwave. Additionally, you can also cover the tips of the drumsticks and wings with a small sheet of microwave-safe foil. The foil will prevent the wings and legs from cooking.

When the turkey is completely defrosted, cook it immediately.

How To Cook A Frozen Turkey

Even if you thaw your turkey in the microwave, there is still a chance that it could be frozen on Thanksgiving morning. However, there’s no need to fret. Just like you can cook a steak from frozen, you can cook a turkey from frozen. The only drawback is that your turkey will take longer to defrost.

On average, a turkey in its frozen state will take 50% longer to cook than a defrosted turkey. However, if your turkey is partially frozen, it will take slightly longer to cook than a thawed turkey.

Therefore, you should use an infrared thermometer to determine whether your turkey is cooked or not. Remember to point the thermometer at the thickest part of the thigh or breast.

Final Thoughts

Before you know it, another Thanksgiving day will be here. To make an award-winning turkey that can be easily carved into slices, you must thaw it properly. Luckily, you know how to defrost a turkey using 3 different methods.

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