best way to thaw a turkey

How to Thaw a Thanksgiving Turkey the Right Way

While it’s not as glamorous as seasoning or brining, knowing how to thaw a Thanksgiving turkey is essential to your holiday prep. The correct thawing method not only ensures a properly cooked turkey, but lessens the risk of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. We’ll answer some FAQs about thawing a turkey in the refrigerator and sink, providing a step-by-step guide for each method.

Holiday Prep 101: How to Thaw a Thanksgiving Turkey

While there’s more than one method for how to thaw a Thanksgiving turkey, using each method appropriately is what’s most important. Our guide includes step-by-step instructions, general time frames, and a worry-free plan if you find your turkey still frozen on Thanksgiving morning.

How Long to Thaw a Turkey?

Knowing how long to safely thaw turkey depends on the weight of your bird and the thawing method you choose. A heavier turkey takes longer to thaw with both the refrigerator and sink methods. Generally, the refrigerator method takes 1 day to thaw for every 4lbs of turkey while the sink method takes 30 minutes for every 1 lb of turkey.

This means an average, 15lb turkey can take 3-4 days to defrost in the refrigerator and 6-8 hours to defrost  in the sink.

Can You Thaw a Turkey in the Refrigerator?

The refrigerator is considered the best way to thaw a turkey, as it can maintain a consistently cold temperature that inhibits the growth of bacteria. To make sure your refrigerator is cold enough it should be set between 36-40℉.

Follow these steps to thaw turkey in refrigerator properly:

  1. Leave turkey unopened in its original wrapping.
  2. Place turkey breast side up on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan to catch any drippings.
  3. Place the pan in the refrigerator.
  4. Cook turkey within 4 days of thawing.
how to thaw a thanksgiving turkey
Image from All Recipes

Can You Thaw a Turkey in the Sink?

Though thawing in the sink is faster than using the refrigerator, it requires consistent attention. It’s recommended that you thaw a turkey in cold water only, as using warm or hot water can promote bacterial growth. In addition, don’t use this method to defrost a turkey overnight, as the water will become too warm without frequent changes. 

Here’s how to thaw a Thanksgiving turkey using the sink and cold water:

  1. Leave turkey in the original, unopened wrapper.
  2. Place turkey breast side down in the sink.
  3. Completely submerge the turkey in cold water, weighing it down with a dish if necessary.
  4. Change the water and rotate the turkey every 30 minutes.
  5. Cook turkey immediately after defrosting.

Turkey Still Frozen On Thanksgiving Day?

If you wake up to find your turkey still frozen on Thanksgiving morning, there’s no need to worry. You can safely cook a frozen turkey, it will just take a little longer. Generally, cooking a completely frozen bird can take 50% more time, while a partially defrosted turkey will take 25% longer.

Unfortunately, you can’t brine or preseason a frozen turkey before putting it in the oven. However, you can still add flavor by adding butter, salt, pepper and herbs to the skin halfway through cooking.

safely thaw turkey

Knowing how to thaw a Thanksgiving turkey properly can set you up for success as you plan the rest of your holiday. But if the need for a refrigerator repair service throws a wrench in the plan, call Maughanster Appliance Repair for a fast fix!