How to thaw a turkey

What are the ways to thaw a frozen turkey?

Let's start with the assumption that security is never in balance. Safety must be considered in every method we use. This means that we want to keep all time and temperature sensitive food out of the danger zone. The danger zone is the temperature range from 40 ° F to 140 ° F.

When you have enough time, the safest and easiest thing to do is to let the turkey thaw in the refrigerator as there is little you need to do. The turkey is always out of the danger zone and just needs to be put in the refrigerator. However, it can take a long time, 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey weight ... 4 days for a 20 pound turkey weight.

Assuming you haven't planned that far in advance, the other safe method is to defrost the sink with cold running water. The water does not have to flow out, just a steady stream so that the water rotates regularly. Water conducts heat better than air, so the turkey thaws faster than in the refrigerator.

The danger zone is why you don't want to thaw the turkey with warm water or just sit on the counter. In both cases, the outer meat is heated in the hazard zone before defrosting, so you have part of the meat (the part most likely to have come into contact with contaminants) in a temperature range that encourages bacterial growth.


I don't even want to imagine how much water it costs to thaw a whole turkey under the tap ... thawing even a few pieces of chicken breast is a pain!

Andres Jaan Tack

Ah, that was a good description of "the danger zone". I get it.