Crystals in Wine
How Much Turkey to Buy

Defrosting Frozen Turkey

How long does it take to defrost a frozen turkey?



The length of time it takes to defrost a frozen turkey depends on a few things, most importantly the weight of the bird and the method used.  The length of time will also be affected by the temperature at which it is being defrosted.

There are two generally accepted ways of defrosting a turkey that are considered safe.  The best way is to place the whole bird in your fridge and defrost it slowly.  Using this method, it will take about 5 hours per pound, or 10 hours per kilogram.  The exact length of time may be a bit shorter or longer, depending also on the temperature of the frozen bird and the temperature of the refrigerator.  Since the thawed bird can remain in the fridge for a day or two after it is defrosted, it is better to give yourself some extra time, if possible, rather than not thaw it long enough.  It is recommended that you place a large pan under the bird so that any juices that leak out are caught in the pan rather than dripping onto any food on a lower shelf.

Alternately, if you are short of time, or if the turkey hasn't completely defrosted in the fridge, you can try defrosting it in a bath of cold water.  The water must be kept at or below 40°F (4°C), and the bird must be completely submerged.  Run cold water into a large basin or sink and place the bird, still in its packaging into the water.  If you have a probe thermometer, you may be able to use it to be sure the water remains cold.  Because water is a better heat conductor than air, this method is somewhat faster than using the fridge.  Depending on the size of the basin or sink, defrosting should take about 30 minutes per pound or one hour per kilogram.

Methods that are not recommended are thawing the turkey in your microwave, assuming you have one that is big enough, or thawing at room temperature.  Both of these methods increase the risk of food borne illness.

To read about how long to cook the turkey, see Roast Turkey Temperature.

To read about keeping leftovers, see How Long will Leftover Turkey Keep in the Fridge.

And to read about food safety for stuffing, read Dis-dressed Turkey.

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