Finding a shortcut to make Thanksgiving planning easier certainly sounds like a good idea. Just make sure that shortcut doesn’t include how to thaw a turkey. When it comes to all the ways to thaw a turkey, there are simply the right techniques and the wrong ones…with no shortcuts about it.

Ways to Thaw a Turkey (and the Ways Not to)

Using one of the wrong ways to defrost a turkey could have serious consequences. When thawed incorrectly, a raw turkey can be host to harmful bacteria that multiply quickly in a warm environment and could cause illness.

To avoid this concern, we’ve detailed three ways to thaw a turkey safely. We’ve also reviewed what NOT to do to defrost your turkey so you and your guests can safely enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner.

And to further ensure that your Thanksgiving dinner gets to the table without a hitch, we recommend following our oven maintenance tips well in advance of the big day to make sure your oven is functioning properly.

How to Thaw a Turkey in the Refrigerator

This method for how to defrost a frozen turkey is the only method recommended by the USDA. The consistently cool refrigerator temperature prohibits the growth of bacteria but still allows the turkey to defrost. While this method is safe, it’s also the slowest of all the turkey thawing times, taking 1 day for every 4-5lbs of turkey to defrost. Here’s how to thaw a turkey in the refrigerator:

  • Calculate the thaw time: Add 1 day for every 4-5 lbs of turkey. For example, give a 16 lb turkey 4 days to thaw (16-pound turkey / 4 pounds per day = 4 days).
  • Keep the turkey in its original wrapping.
  • Place breast side up in a roasting pan.
  • Place the roasting pan in the refrigerator.
  • Avoid contact with refrigerator surfaces or other foods.
ways to thaw a turkey

Image from Iowa State University

Thawing a Turkey in Cold Water

If you don’t have days to thaw a turkey, using cold water is one of the other ways to thaw a turkey safely. However, you must be vigilant about changing the water to make sure it stays cool, prohibiting the growth of bacteria. Allow 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound of turkey. A 14lb turkey will take about 7 hours to thaw. Follow these steps to thaw a turkey using cold water:

  • Leave the turkey in its original wrapping.
  • Submerge the turkey in a sink or large container of cold water.
  • Change the water every 30 minutes.
  • Cook the turkey immediately upon defrosting.
ways to defrost a turkey

Image from Grant County Health District

How to Thaw a Turkey in the Microwave

If you’re truly short on time the microwave can technically defrost a frozen turkey at a rate of about 6 minutes per pound. But there are a few variables that should make thawing a turkey in a microwave your last resort. The nature of microwave power will likely cook some parts of your turkey while leaving others still frozen. Microwaves also vary in their power levels making exact defrosting times hard to pin down. If you must defrost a turkey in the microwave, follow these steps:

  • Make sure your turkey will fit in the microwave.
  • Remove all wrapping and place the turkey in an oven safe dish.
  • Use the Defrost setting, rotating and flipping throughout the cycle.
  • Cook the turkey immediately upon thawing.
turkey thawing times

Image from Star 96.7

How Not to Thaw a Turkey

Thanksgiving dinner can be a stressful meal to prepare and sometimes we don’t make the best decisions under stress. If you forget to thaw your turkey, please don’t resort to such methods as leaving it at room temperature overnight, pouring hot water over it or blow-drying it. These methods will only promote bacterial overgrowth that could sicken you and your guests.

Cooking a frozen turkey is a much safer option than these methods and, with some extra cooking time, will still yield delicious results.

We hope these methods have illustrated enough safe ways to thaw a turkey so you can do so with confidence this Thanksgiving. The experts at Best Service Company always operate with confidence and professionalism as the #1 oven repair service in the Denver area. Schedule your oven repair or maintenance today!