How & When to Start Defrosting Your Turkey Based on Its Size?

by Kristiyana

Are you planning on using a frozen turkey for your family’s Thanksgiving dinner this year? Do you know when to start defrosting your turkey based on its size?

No Thanksgiving dinner is an authentic one without a big turkey. However, when dealing with frozen meat you must know about the correct defrosting methods, otherwise, you run the risk of exposing yourself and your family to harmful bacteria. Here is all you need to know about when and how to defrost a turkey.

How & When to Start Defrosting Your Turkey?

how when to defrost a turkey correct and wrong methods

When it comes to defrosting/thawing a turkey the right way, there are some methods that are highly recommended by the USDA, and some that you should definitely avoid. For starters, a lot of people think that leaving their frozen turkey on the counter to defrost is a convenient idea. This is basically you inviting all the harmful bacteria to join in on your family dinner. Also, never thaw a frozen turkey in a brown paper grocery bag or a plastic one. How to do it right? Follow our guide.

Turkey Defrosting Chart Based on Size

when to start defrosting a turkey based on weight size chart
  • If the size of your turkey is from 4 to 12 lbs/1.8 to 5.4 kg, it should be left to defrost in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days. If you’ve missed your chance for doing this in time and need a quick solution, leave it in cold water for 2 to 6 hours. Make sure you change the water every 30 minutes.
  • For turkeys that weight from 12 to 16 lbs/5.4 to 7.2 kg, leave in fridge to thaw for 3 to 4 days. Defrost in cold water for 6 to 8 hours.
  • 16 to 20 lbs/7.2 to 9 kg turkeys need to thaw in fridge for 4 to 5 days. Leave in cold water instead for 8 to 10 hours.
  • And turkeys the size of 20 to 24 lbs/9 to 11 kg should defrost in the fridge for 5 to 6 days, or 10 to 12 hours in cold water.

Microwaving Tip: Although not a highly recommended method, this is the quickest fix. Be sure to first check the microwave’s manual for maximum allowable size and, if listed, the recommended time per pound for thawing. Remove the outside wrapping of the meat and place it in a microwave-safe dish. Use the defrost function, and follow as a general rule 6 minutes for thawing per pound. Rotate the turkey several times and even flip during the process.

How & When to Start Defrosting Your Turkey in the Fridge?

when to start defrosting turkey meat

The USDA says that defrosting a turkey in the refrigerator is the safest method as it thaws at a consistent, safe temperature. If you have the time, allow one day for thawing for each 4 to 5 pounds/2 to 3 kilograms of weight. Once it has defrosted, the turkey meat is safe for another two days. How to store turkey leftovers safely so you can enjoy them later?

Thawing a Frozen Turkey in Cold Water Method

how and when to defrost turkey recommendations

Didn’t have enough time to defrost your turkey? Thawing a turkey in cold water is the next best solution! Be sure to start right away as soon as you read this to be able to defrost it in time. To begin, keep your turkey in its original packaging. If your bird is almost completely defrosted, 30 min in cold water might be all you need. However, if it is fully frozen, allow 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Don’t forget to change the water every 30 minutes, as previously mentioned. Make sure no water leaks into the packaging. And remember, once a turkey is defrosted in this manner it should be cooked right away and cannot be refrozen.

Also read: Martha Stewart Thanksgiving Dressing Recipe with Wild Mushrooms

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