So Thanksgiving is just a few days away and it’s time to talk turkey. If you are like the majority of the population you’ve already bought your frozen bird and have it nestled in your freezer. The question is, what’s the best way to defrost it? Now there truly is only one acceptable AND safe way however there are a few ways out there that just scare me.
Let me tell you what NOT to do first…
1. Never let a frozen turkey sit out on the counter and thaw at room temperature!
Uncooked meat or poultry (including frozen) shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Any longer than that and you’re just begging for a case of food poisoning. *Shudder* Don’t do this. Like… EVER!
2. Never EVER try to thaw your turkey in the microwave
Yes, people have done this and I seriously want to Face Palm them with this. What’s going to end up happening is some parts will be thawed, some will start to cook and others will still be frozen. Seriously, don’t do this.
3. Cold water method
Okay so this is how my Mom always did it and while it technically can be done safely it’s a true PITA! You MUST AT ALL TIMES keep the water at 40F or colder for it to thaw evenly and properly without introducing food bourne bacteria! The problem is, you need to allow 30 minutes of thawing time for every pound of frozen bird, and you must keep the water at 40°F or colder the entire time. For a large turkey, that means monitoring the temperature with an instant-read thermometer and changing the water every half hour for 12 hours!
What’s so special about 40°F? That’s the lower limit of the Food Temperature Danger Zone. If the turkey gets any warmer than that, it gives dangerous bacteria a chance to multiply like crazy. So unless you’re strictly committed to changing the water up to 24 times, don’t bother with this method.
This method is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention. The food must be in a leakproof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Also, the meat tissue may absorb water, resulting in a watery product. The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw. Small packages of meat, poultry or seafood – about a pound – may thaw in an hour or less. A 3- to 4-pound package may take 2 to 3 hours. For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per pound. If thawed completely, the food must be cooked immediately. Foods thawed by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.
BEST and SAFEST METHOD
Thawing in the refrigerator is the only safe way to defrost a frozen turkey. Here’s how to do it:
- Make sure that your refrigerator is at 40°F or colder.
- Leave the turkey in its original wrapper.
- Thaw breast side up.
- Place the bird on a tray or in a pan to collect any juices that leak out.
- Keep it at the bottom of your fridge so that any leakage won’t contaminate anything below.
- Allow 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of frozen turkey.
Here are the basic weight guidelines for refrigerator thawing:
Turkey Weight Thawing Time Up to 12 lbs 1-3 days 12 to 16 lbs 3-4 days 16 to 20 lbs 4-5 days 20 to 24 lbs 5-6 days
To calculate your exact thawing times, use this site: http://www.butterball.com/how-tos/thaw-a-turkey
Recipe Reviews & Comments
I place my frozen turkey in cold water inside a ice chest on my front porch .temp outside is in the forty degree .I hope things go well.
Just curious…does cooking the meat do anything to rid the food of all those “bacteria”? My mom thawed her meat on the counter a lot and I myself have done it a lot (though I usually have to use the cold water bath because I’m running behind). I have yet to get food poisoning and I’m 33. Does the temp at which you cook it matter?
Room temperatures fall within the danger zone of 40°F to 140°F that promotes active growth of bacteria. If left on a kitchen counter, a frozen turkey will thaw from the outside in. As its surface warms, bacteria multiply. In the time it takes for the entire turkey to thaw, the surface bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels. Cooking may not destroy all bacteria. Some foodborne bacteria produce toxins that withstand heat. It’s not a guarantee that if you thaw it on the counter that you will get food poisoning but why risk it? If you’ve ever had it, it’s truly horrible – worse than any flu.
As my Mom used to say “Better be safe than sorry!”
Best Kitchen Wishes and Happy Thanksgiving!