It’s a question that has been asked for centuries, or at least as long as advanced refrigeration technology has existed: how to thaw a turkey? When phrased more articulately its: “how long does it take to properly thaw a turkey and prevent a mass poisoning and slow death of my friends and family who have conjugated around my table for Thanksgiving dinner”.
When you think about it, that Turkey holds a lot of power. It will either deliver one of the most satisfying meals of the year. Or if cooked improperly could be sending a boatload of people to the ER and leave many more bed ridden for several days. Aren’t you happy you found this article. If you dislike your family, you’re probably not. However if you’re not a deranged lunatic with a thirst for imposing violent illness on supposed loved ones, this will be helpful information.
So let’s get right to the nitty-gritty. How long should you thaw a turkey for?
And how should you thaw a turkey? Those are two very important steps. Let’s first tackle the how you should thaw a turkey.
Ideally, this should be done in a refrigerator over the course of several days. There is a speed method to this that I will share in a moment, but let’s just assume you’re reading this with more than a little time to spare. A 12 pound turkey or less will take about 2 days to defrost in a refrigerator. Simply put it on a large plate or pan, do not unwrap it, just let it sit. If you have a larger bird, such as a 24 pounder it may take 3 to 4 days.
The issue I always run into is still having part of the bird frozen even when following these guidelines. So to be completely safe it that bird in the fridge two days before you assume you “should”. This will do no harm to the bird whatsoever, it’s in a chilled environment that is very safe.
Let’s say you’re just happening to read this the day before Thanksgiving or the date of. What do you do?
The best thing you can do is the “ice bath method”. This means rapidly thawing it in a bath of ice water. But icewater? Yes icewater. If you put in hot water look at that bird dangerously too warm and likely swarms of a little disease called salmonella. I should emphasize that “rapidly” means more like four hours. Either fill a large bucket with icewater and continue to refill the ice as it melts, or clean your sink thoroughly and fill that with icewater. Put the bird in it and let it thaw. If it’s not completely gone within four hours, put it back in the fridge for however long it takes to finish thawing. Very likely though, your bird will be good and thought within one to two hours of the icewater method.
I cannot stress to you how important it is to continue refilling your icewater bath with ice.
Beware of other methods you find on the Internet. These are truly the only two safe methods for thawing turkey. Letting it sit on the counter, serenading the carcass with Barry Manilow’s greatest hits or any other on orthodox method you find online for thawing a Turkey that doesn’t involve a refrigerator or an ice water bath should be simply avoided like the plague. If you don’t heed this warning will very likely end up with symptoms similar to the plague.