While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely. As quickly as it begins to thaw, bacteria the may have actually been present before freezing will start to thrive again.

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There space three safe methods to defrost a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and also in a microwave oven.

Refrigerator Thawing (Recommended)


The USDA proposal thawing your turkey in the refrigerator. This is the safest method because the turkey will certainly thaw at a consistent, for sure temperature. This an approach takes some time, so allow one day for each 4 – 5 pounds that weight. If your turkey weighs 16 pounds, it will certainly take around four days to thaw. As soon as thawed, the turkey is for sure for another two days, therefore you deserve to start thawing it six days prior to thanksgiving (the Friday prior to Thanksgiving).

The various other two methods (cold water and also microwave) need to be done immediately before girlfriend start food preparation the turkey, therefore you’ll have to wait until Thanksgiving morning.

Cold Water Thawing

For the cold water method, leaving the turkey in its original wrapping and submerge the in a sink (or container) full of cold water. The is crucial that the water it is in cold so that the turkey remains at a for sure temperature. Girlfriend should readjust the water every 30 minutes. Empty out the water and also replace it with fresh cold water. Through this method, permit 30 minutes of defrosting time every pound, for this reason a 16 pound turkey will take 8 hours to thaw utilizing this technique (so you could need come start about 4 a.m. If you desire to eat in the afternoon!). When the turkey has thawed, chef it immediately.

Microwave Thawing

Before you commit come thawing your turkey in the microwave, check your owner’s manual for the size turkey that will certainly fit in her microwave oven, the minutes every pound and also the power level come use once thawing a turkey. Remove all external wrapping and place the turkey top top a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak. Usage the defrost duty based top top weight. Together a general rule, enable 6 minutes per pound once thawing a turkey in the microwave. Be certain to revolve it number of times, and also even flip it, throughout the thawing process.

If the turkey starts come actually chef instead of simply defrost, let it remainder for 5 minutes or so before you resume thawing. Partway through thawing you may wish to cover the advice of the wings and drumsticks v a little piece of silver paper to shield them native the microwaves and also keep them from cooking. As soon as the turkey has thawed girlfriend should chef it immediately.

How not to Thaw a Turkey

In case you space wondering, right here are some thawing techniques that space not recommended:

– thawing a turkey ~ above the counter, in the garage or on the back porch– thawing a turkey in a brown document grocery bag or plastic garbage bag– making use of the dishwasher come thaw a turkey (with or without water)– any an approach that is no the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave

How to cook a Frozen Turkey

If her turkey is tho icy ~ above Thanksgiving morning, don’t panic! the is perfectly for sure to cook a turkey native the frozen state; it will simply take much longer to cook. A solidly frozen turkey will certainly take at the very least 50 percent much longer to chef than a thawed turkey. If your turkey is just partially frozen, remember that it will take a little longer to cook. Use your food thermometer, and also when her bird actions 165˚F in the innermost component of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and also the thickest part of the breast, that is ready.

For more information on safe thawing methods, visit fsis.usda.gov.

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Written by Marianne Gravely, Food Safety education and learning Staff, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.