Defrosting or thawing a frozen turkey is not a quick process, but you can choose from several ways to do it. A couple of these choices will accomplish the thawing process somewhat more rapidly.
For each of these processes, leave the bird completely sealed in its protective plastic wrapper. Make sure the bag doesn’t have any holes in it, which can cause contamination when thawing.
Make certain that your refrigerator is set below 40*F
Place the turkey, completely sealed in its protective plastic wrapper on a deep tray to catch any drippings. Place this tray on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. This is to assure that should the turkey leak, it will not drip onto any other food in the refrigerator.
In order to fully defrost a completely frozen turkey in the refrigerator, allow at least one day for every three pounds of turkey. Based on this figure, a twenty pound turkey would take about 7 days to fully thaw fully in the refrigerator.
COLD WATER THAWING:
When defrosting your turkey in cold water, expect the process to take at least 30 minutes per pound of turkey.
IF you don’t have room in the fridge or are limited for time to defrost it fully, you can choose from several options. Begin by keeping the turkey completely wrapped in its protective covering and choosing one of the following methods:
1. Use a sink filled with cold water. Place the turkey breast down. You will need to change the water every 30 minutes. Take note: It will definitely be a challenge to work in a kitchen when the sink is filled with a defrosting turkey.
2. Use a clean bathtub filled with cold water. Place the turkey breast down, and cover with water. You will need to change the water every 30 minutes. I had to do this one year when I bought a 30 lb turkey. Take extra safety care with this option, if you have small children or pets.
3. Use a large cooler filled with cold water. Place the turkey breast down in the cooler. Check the water temperature often to make sure it stays below 40*. This is my recommended method. I leave the lid on to keep it cool and to make it safer. ALWAYS take care to place it away from small children and pets.
ALWAYS use a COLD water bath. Check and replace the water often to make sure it stays nice and cold. Each of these methods takes about 30 minutes per pound, so a 20 pound turkey will take about 10 hours.
Do not attempt to thaw the turkey at room temperature EVER. Microwave thawing is not recommended.
When your turkey is thawed, either store it in the refrigerator, or roast it immediately. Though many suggest leaving the turkey at room temperature for an hour before roasting, this is NEVER a safe thing to do. Bacteria multiplies rapidly any time either raw or cooked turkey is between 40*F and 140*F.
If you do not have sufficient time to thaw your turkey, you can cook it frozen by carefully following these instructions. NOTE: I have never tried this, so can’t recommend it.
Marjie Briggs is a Consumer Scientist / Home Economist who regularly shares tips to help you in the kitchen!