Thawing a turkey wrong can lead to a ruined Thanksgiving dinner or even make people sick. This easy guide goes over all the right and wrong ways to thaw a turkey and how long it will take!
How Do You Thaw a Turkey???
The best way to thaw or defrost a turkey is in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F or colder.
Leave the turkey in the wrapper and put it in a pan to catch anything that leaks out of the package.
Plan on 24 hours for every 5 pounds of frozen turkey!
How Long Does It Take To Thaw A Turkey???
Most turkeys take 3-4 days to thaw safely in the refrigerator. The exact amount of time is determined by how much the turkey weighs. Plan ahead to make sure you don’t find a block of ice to cook on Thanksgiving!
Turkey Thawing Time
- 1-12 Pound Turkey: 1-3 days
- 12-16 Pound Turkey: 3-4 days
- 16-20 Pound Turkey: 3-4 days
- 20-30 Pound Turkey: 5-6 days
Printable Turkey Thawing Guide (Click on the underlined text to download a PDF that you can print.)
How Do You Defrost a Turkey?
Defrosting a turkey and thawing a turkey are different ways of saying the same thing. See the section above for instructions.
How Do You Thaw A Turkey In Water?
If you are tight on time a turkey can be thawed in cold water.
- Use a sink or a clean cooler.
- Put the wrapped turkey into 40 degree F water.
- Change the water often enough to keep it at 40 degrees.
- Plan on 30 minutes for every pound of turkey you need to thaw.
This method takes a lot of time and you need to stay on top of checking the bird.
I don’t recommend this method unless you don’t have time to thaw the bird in a refrigerator!
Can You Thaw a Turkey in the Microwave?
No matter WHAT disaster befalls your Thanksgiving planning DO NOT thaw your turkey in the microwave!
The bird ends up partially cooked and partially frozen!!! It is just a really BAD idea!
Can You Thaw a Turkey On The Counter?
Nope! Raw meat should not be left on the counter for more than two hours!
How Long Can a Turkey Be Thawed Before You Have To Cook It?
The best plan is to cook your turkey within two days of it becoming fully thawed. Remember the turkey has been thawing over the course of several days so you don’t have as much time as you would with meat that thawed overnight.