How to Thaw a Frozen Turkey: Here are 3 safe ways to thaw your bird for Thanksgiving, according to the USDA

Thanksgiving is almost here! If you plan on cooking the big bird, the USDA says you do three ways to safely thaw a frozen turkey.

Defrost refrigerator

Every four to five pounds of turkey requires 24 hours of refrigeration thawing, according to the USDA.

“If your turkey weighs 16 pounds, it will take about four days to thaw. Once thawed, the turkey is safe for another two days, so you can start thawing six days before Thanksgiving (the Friday before Thanksgiving),” the USDA recommends.

Thawing your turkey in the refrigerator is the safest method because the turkey thaws at a constant, safe temperature, the USDA says.

But if you forgot to defrost the turkey and need to do it quickly, don’t panic! There are other ways.

The USDA recommends the following:

Defrost with cold water

“For the cold water method, leave the turkey in its original packaging and submerge it in a sink (or container) of cold water. It’s important that the water is cold so the turkey stays at a safe temperature. You should change the water every 30 minutes. Empty out the water and replace with fresh cold water. With this method, you allow 30 minutes of thawing time per pound, so a 16-pound turkey would take 8 hours to thaw using this method (you could, so you need to start around 4am if you want to eat in the afternoon!). Once the turkey is thawed, cook it immediately.

Defrost in the microwave

“Before you commit to defrosting your turkey in the microwave, consult your owner’s manual to determine what size turkey your microwave oven will fit, the minutes per pound, and the power level to use to defrost a turkey. Remove all outer packaging and place the turkey in a microwave-safe dish tray to catch any juice that may spill out. Use the weight-based defrost function. As a general rule, allow six minutes per pound when defrosting a turkey in the microwave. Be sure to turn it several times, and even turn it over, during the defrosting process.”

What if the turkey actually starts to cook instead of just thawing?

The USDA says you should let it sit for about five minutes before proceeding to thaw.

“After defrosting, you may want to cover the tips of the wings and drumsticks with a small piece of foil to protect them from the microwaves and stop them from cooking. Once the turkey is thawed, you should cook it immediately,” the USDA said.

If you’re concerned about using aluminum foil in the microwave, the USDA says it’s actually fine to use Foil in the microwave in small amounts.

So what if your turkey is still icy on Thanksgiving morning? The USDA says it’s perfectly safe to cook a frozen turkey, it just takes longer to cook.

“A frozen turkey will take at least 50% longer to cook than a thawed turkey,” the USDA said. “If your turkey is only partially frozen, keep in mind that it will take a little longer to cook. Use your food thermometer, and when your bird measures 165F on the innermost part of the thigh, innermost part of the wing, and thickest part of the breast, she’s done.”

click here for more tips on safe thawing methods.

This story was originally published in November 2020.

Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All rights reserved. How to Thaw a Frozen Turkey: Here are 3 safe ways to thaw your bird for Thanksgiving, according to the USDA

Laura Coffey

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