What's the Fastest Way to Thaw a Frozen Turkey?


Turkey Thawing 101

The two most common methods to thaw out a turkey are in the refrigerator and in cold water. The best option is defrosting in the fridge, but you'll need a few days, so you have to prepare in advance. Thawing it out in the refrigerator can be handy because all you have to do is leave it there (in its original wrapping) until it's ready to cook. Just be sure you roast or fry it one or two days after it's completely thawed. Allow about 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds (2 kilograms) of turkey.

Time required to thaw in refrigerator:

  • 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, you can also defrost your turkey in cold water as a good Plan B. Simply cover the packaged turkey in ice-cold water, being sure to change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold. You'll have to allow about 30 minutes of thawing time per pound (.4 kilograms) of turkey.

Time required to thaw in cold water:

  • 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

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 165 Fahrenheit (73 Celsius) in the thickest part of the turkey, it's ready to remove from the oven. Let it rest on your counter for about 20 minutes before you carve, and then serve.

Here are some rules of thumb for turkey roasting time (assuming your oven is heated to 325 degrees Fahrenheit or 163 degrees 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.

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