Family and Consumer Sciences Education: What are Safe Methods to Thaw a Turkey?

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Refrigerator Thawing

   When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator, plan ahead. Allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below. Place the turkey in a container to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods.

Refrigerator Thawing Times

Whole turkey:

4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days

12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days

16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days

20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days

   A thawed turkey, thawed in the refrigerator, can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking. Foods thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking but there may be some loss of quality.

Cold Water Thawing

   Allow about 30 minutes per pound. First be sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water, resulting in a watery product.
Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.

Cold Water Thawing Times

4 to 12 pounds — 2 to 6 hours

12 to 16 pounds — 6 to 8 hours

16 to 20 pounds — 8 to 10 hours

20 to 24 pounds — 10 to 12 hours

   A turkey thawed by the cold water method should be cooked immediately after thawing and not stored in the refrigerator. After cooking, meat from the turkey can be refrozen.

   Remember: A package of frozen meat or poultry left thawing on the counter more than 2 hours is not at a safe temperature. Even though the center of the package may still be frozen, the outer layer of the food is in the “Danger Zone” between 40 and 140 °F — at a temperature where bacteria multiply rapidly.
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Source by: Virginia Cooperative Extension