How Long to Thaw a Turkey: The Proper Ways and Time Periods

If you are preparing a turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner, and this is a pretty new process for you, you may want to know how long to thaw a turkey – and how to do it correctly. A lot of people would keep the turkey frozen until it is time to cook it. Thawing is a risky process because it exposes the turkey to bacteria (which is likely to be present before the freezing process). No need to worry. You will know how to thaw a turkey safely and correctly – as well as knowing how long to process it.

Refrigerator Thawing

how long to thaw a turkey in the refrigerator

This is the most recommended method because it is the safest and also the best method to try. By doing refrigerator thawing, the turkey will defrost within a safe and consistent temperature. Here is a general rule: Provide a day for every 4 to 5 pounds. Let’s say that your turkey weighs around 16 pounds. It means that you need to provide 4 days for the turkey to thaw properly and correctly.

Once the turkey has been thawed, you can keep the uncooked turkey safely in the refrigerator. It can last for an extra of 2 days. So, you need to start doing the thaw up to 6 days before eating it. Be careful if you want to use a brine for the season. You need to consider the brine time too.

Cold Water Thawing

How Long to Thaw a Turkey

You may have to cook the turkey suddenly. Or you may not remember to put it in the refrigerator for proper refrigerator thawing. No need to worry. If you still have little time, you can do the cold water trick. How long to thaw a turkey with this method? It may take hours for the thawing, depending on the total weight.

Don’t open the turkey’s original wrapping. Use a container and fill it full with water, and then submerge the turkey. Make sure to put the breast side down. You can also submerge it in a sink directly but I like using a container. Make sure to use COLD water so the turkey will be in a safe temperature. It takes 30 minutes to defrost a pound. So if your turkey is 16 pounds, you need to thaw it for 8 hours by using this method. Don’t forget to change the water once every 30 minutes – it is crucial to make the turkey remains chilled.

Microwave Thawing

If you only have a few hours before the guests arrive, then microwave thawing would be the best option. But you need to answer these questions as a part of your research:

  • Does the turkey fit in the microwave?
  • Do you still keep the manual?

The latter question is important because each microwave has its own setting. You should be able to find the information for the correct power level and minutes-per-pound thawing. In general, it is 6 minutes a pound for the thawing, but make sure to check

If you definitely know what to do, remove the wrapping, and place the turkey in a mirowave-safe container or dish that can accommodate it (as well as catching the leaking juice).  Rotate the turkey to ensure that it is defrosting (not cooking). Once the turkey is thawed, cook it right away. Don’t put it in the refrigerator anymore.

You have 3 different ways to thaw the turkey. Now that you know the methods and how long to thaw a turkey, make sure to do it properly.


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