How to properly thaw a frozen Thanksgiving turkey

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Thaw a Frozen Thanksgiving Turkey

You’ve got to get a big frozen bird from your freezer to the oven. But how? Food blogger Shawnda Horn of Confections of a Foodie Bride shares her half-frozen turkey tale and the trick that saved the day:

The first turkey I ever made, I committed one rookie sin: I started the morning with a half-frozen turkey (even though I'd put it in the fridge 3 days before to thaw). I was changing the water in the sink every 10 minutes, sweating, in a total panic, because I was behind schedule on the day (a schedule I had in printed spreadsheet form) and drinking wine far too quickly before noon to try to relax. Dinner was 2+ hours late… and I had the worst hangover shopping on Black Friday.

Find out how Shawnda thawed her turkey and how you can avoid this common Thanksgiving dilemma:

A week before

If the turkey is completely frozen, you’ll need to let it sit on a tray (to collect any juices) in the refrigerator for at least a few days before Thanksgiving to thaw. A safe rule of thumb is 24 hours for every 4 pounds. So if you’re feeding an army with a 20-pound bird, prepare to start thawing 5 days ahead of time.

The day of

Shawnda was able to salvage her half-frozen turkey on Thanksgiving day thanks to her sink trick: "I put it in the sink with cool water, and let it set for a few minutes, drained, then refilled with cool water. That sped the thawing process up a bit and saved the holiday."

If you're thawing your frozen turkey in a water bath like Shawnda, don’t allow the water to get above 40 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid the "danger zone"—this is when potentially dangerous bacteria is likely to multiply. Change the water frequently (every 30 minutes), and use a thermometer to ensure the water remains cold around the bird. It’ll take approximately 30 minutes per pound to thaw your turkey using this method.

More food safety tips

  • Don’t thaw turkey at room temperature. Uncooked meat or poultry shouldn't be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Don’t thaw it in the microwave.
  • A thawed turkey may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days before cooking.