How To Easily and Safely Thaw a Frozen Thanksgiving Turkey
Here are my simple tips on how to easily thaw your Thanksgiving turkey using the cold water method. It is very important to safely thaw a frozen turkey. Nothing will make a Thanksgiving meal take a turn for the worse than a turkey that has not been thawed fully or one that has been improperly thawed.
Think of your frozen turkey as a huge ice cube. A huge, 15-25 pound ice cube. But an ice cube that is made of meat. Delicious, succulent meat. But this huge ice cube can not be thawed quickly or at high temperatures. It is just bad food handling.
Make sure you have a pot large enough to hold the entire frozen turkey. If you have a bird that is bigger than a pot you own, you could use a large insulated cooler.
There is no need to take the frozen turkey out of the store packaging. The packaging is sealed and will help keep the juices of the turkey from making a mess.
Fill With Cold Water
Fill the large pot (or cooler) with cold water. Be sure the turkey is completely submerged.
You will see that the frozen bird will have a tendency to want to float. That is because of the air pocket of the cavity of the bird will want to make the bird buoyant.
It is important that the entire bird be submerged in the cold water. If a portion of the bird is out of the water, it will thaw at a different rate and could reach an unsafe temperature.
Put A Lid On It
So to keep the bird completely submerged, put a lid on the pot.
Now, set a timer and change out the cold water every 30 minutes or until the turkey is completely thawed.
Approximate* time to defrost a whole turkey in cold water:
Cold Water Thawing Times (approximately 30 minutes per pound)
- 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
*These are approximate times and you should check each bird individually for temperature.
Here is a tip we would use when I was in the commercial food service industry. If you are not able to change the water every 30 minutes run a small trickle of water in the pot and allow it to overflow. This will constantly refresh the water, keeping the temperature cold. Just be sure the drain is open! The last thing you want is to come home to a flooded kitchen.
A turkey thawed by the cold water method should be cooked immediately. After cooking, meat from the turkey can be refrozen.