How To Thaw A Turkey

by | Jan 10, 2023 | Cooking Skills | 0 comments

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s time to put some thought onto your turkey for your table. But before you can cook a tasty and beautiful turkey to serve your family, you have to thaw that frozen bird. How can you thaw a turkey safely?

Turkey can safely be thawed in the fridge or in cold water. In the fridge you need to give about 24 hours of thawing time per 4 pounds of turkey, while using cold water you should give 30 minutes for every pound of turkey. A 16 pound turkey will take around 4 days to thaw in the fridge, while that same turkey will take 8 hours to thaw in cold water.

These two methods give you options depending on the timeline you have. Both are safe ways to thaw a turkey without causing a safety concern for food pathogens.

How to thaw a turkey in the fridge

If you have the space and the time, thawing your turkey in the fridge is the easiest and most recommended method. It does not require the same hands-on approach as the water method does, but it does take up a portion of your fridge for a few days.

You’ll want to keep your turkey in its wrapping while it thaws. Find a baking sheet or a container that fits your turkey and place it in a cleared area of your fridge.

That’s it. Now you wait. How long you wait depends on your fridge temperature and how big your turkey is. For every 4 pounds of turkey you need 24 hours of thawing time for a fridge that is set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If your fridge is closer to 33 degrees, then you’ll need a day of thawing per 3 pounds of turkey.

So for a 16 pound turkey, expect 4 days of thawing in the 40 degree fridge.

How to thaw a turkey in water

If you are short on time or space in your fridge, then the cold water method to thaw your turkey will be your friend. You are more involved in the process, but what is a little extra work for saving days of thawing?

For the cold water thawing you will want to keep turkey in its wrapping and, if possible, wrap it in another water tight bag to keep the water from seeping into the turkey.

You can use your sink or a cooler for this, but make sure there is enough room for the turkey to be completely submerged in the water. The sink will be easier for this process because you’ll change out the water ever 30 minutes during this thawing process. We’re trying to thaw out what is essentially a block of ice quickly, so the fresh water will provide a quicker thawing to the turkey than if we left it in the same water the whole time.

Allow about 30 minutes of thaw time per pound of turkey. For a 16 pound turkey you should expect 8 hours of thaw time in water.

How Long to thaw a frozen turkey

Below you will find an easy look up table which has the thawing time for various weights of turkey, for both thawing in the fridge and thawing in cold water.

Turkey Weight (pounds)Thaw Time in FridgeThaw Time in Cold Water
12 lbs.3 Days6 Hours
13 lbs.3 Days & 6 Hours6.5 Hours
14 lbs.3 Days & 12 Hours7 Hours
15 lbs.3 Days & 18 Hours7.5 Hours
16 lbs.4 Days8 Hours
17 lbs.4 Days & 6 Hours8.5 Hours
18 lbs.4 Days & 12 Hours9 Hours
19 lbs.4 Days & 18 Hours9.5 Hours
20 lbs.5 Days10 Hours
Turkey Thaw times differences between refrigerator and cold water

No matter what turkey you have these thawing principles will stand true. If you are in need of a turkey for Thanksgiving we at Christal Fields have you covered.


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