Turkey Thawing 101
If you find yourself ready for the turkey cooking with a few days to spare, you might want to consider the refrigerator method. Thawing it out in the refrigerator can be handy because you can leave it there until it's ready to cook -- just don't leave it in its thawed state for more than a day. All you need to do is keep the turkey in its original wrapping and then put it in a pan to catch the moisture. Be sure to allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds (2 kilograms) of turkey.
Here's a cheat sheet in case your math skills aren't so good:
- 8 to 12 pounds (3 to 5 kilograms): 1 to 2 days
- 12 to 16 pounds (5 to 7 kilograms): 2 to 3 days
- 16 to 20 pounds (7 to 9 kilograms): 3 to 4 days
- 20 to 24 pounds (9 to 10 kilograms): 4 to 5 days
If you don't have that much time to spare, thawing a turkey in cold water is a good Plan B. Immerse your packaged turkey in ice-cold water and change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold. You'll want to allow about 30 minutes of thawing time per pound (.4 kilograms) of turkey.
Check out this list to figure out which thawing time is right for you and your turkey:
- 8 to 12 pounds (3 to 5 kilograms): 4 to 6 hours
- 12 to 16 pounds (5 to 7 kilograms): 6 to 8 hours
- 16 to 20 pounds (7 to 9 kilograms): 8 to 10 hours
- 20 to 24 pounds (9 to 10 kilograms): 10 to 12 hours
Finally, if you have a tiny little turkey (or a huge microwave), you can thaw it out in the microwave. The best guide for how long it'll take should be listed in your owner's manual -- probably around 60 to 90 minutes on the defrost cycle. Once it's thawed, make sure you cook it right away.
To prepare the turkey for roasting, pull out the giblets and rinse the turkey inside and out. Don't forget to wash your hands and anything in the kitchen that has touched the raw turkey. Use a meat thermometer to figure out when your turkey is done -- when the thermometer registers 185 Fahrenheit (85 Celsius) in the thickest part of the turkey, it's ready to eat.
Here are some rules of thumb for turkey roasting time (assuming your oven is heated to 325 degrees Fahrenheit or 163 Celsius):
8 to 10 pounds (3 to 5 kilograms):
- 2 hours, 45 minutes to 3 hours, unstuffed;
- 3 hours to 3 hours, 30 minutes, stuffed.
12 to 14 pounds (5 to 6 kilograms):
- 3 hours to 3 hours, 45 minutes, unstuffed;
- 3 hours, 30 minutes to 4 hours, stuffed.
14 to 18 pounds (6 to 8 kilograms):
- 3 hours, 45 minutes to 4 hours, 15 minutes, unstuffed;
- 4 hours to 4 hours 15 minutes, stuffed.
18 to 20 pounds (8 to 9 kilograms):
- 4 hours, 15 minutes to 4 hours, 30 minutes, unstuffed;
- 4 hours, 15 minutes to 4 hours, 45 minutes, stuffed.
20 to 24 pounds (9 to 10 kilograms):
- 4 hours, 30 minutes to 5 hours, unstuffed;
- 4 hours, 45 minutes to 5 hours, 15 minutes, stuffed.
It may be true that good things come to those that wait, but when it comes to the Thanksgiving Day bird, there are ways to speed up the process and get that delicious food on the table.
For lots more tasty information, click to the next page.
- How Food Works
- How Refrigerators Work
- How a Microwave Works
- How Pop-Up Turkey Timers Work
- What makes the pop-up timer work on a turkey?
- Is there something in turkey that makes you sleepy?
- Sternweis, Laura. "Forgot to Thaw the Turkey? Cook it Anyway." Iowa State University. Nov. 6, 2008. (April 26, 2011) http://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/2008/nov/120601.htm
- USDA. "How Temperatures Affect Food." (April 26, 2011) http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/how_temperatures_affect_food/index.asp