Thawing the Turkey - Thanksgiving Countdown

When to start defrosting the turkey? Here are some defrosting tips!

When to start defrosting the turkey?  This is the most asked question at the Butterball hotline (1-800-BUTTERBALL).

Below are some safe-turkey thawing facts taken from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).

There are three safe ways to thaw food:  refrigerator; cold water; and microwave.


Refrigerator Thawing

Allow 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds and don't forget to place the turkey in a container so that the juices don't drip on other foods.

Refrigerator thawing times

          4 to 12 pounds                 1 to 3 days

          12 to 16 pounds               3 to 4 days

          16 to 20 pounds               4 to 5 days

          20 to 24 pounds               5 to 6 days


Cold Water Thawing

Allow about 30 minutes per pound.

Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water.  Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed.  Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.

Cold Water thawing times

          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


Microwave Thawing

Follow your microwave oven manufacturer’s instruction.  A turkey thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately.


My preferred method of defrosting is refrigerator.  With everyone’s busy life it is so easy to forget that one step.  So if it’s frozen - now is a good time to transfer to the refrigerator.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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