How to Thaw a Turkey

The Editors at Food Fanatic | Food Fanatic

Learn how to thaw a turkey safely - plus some tips for speeding up the process if you need dinner in a hurry!

A frozen turkey takes some time to thaw enough to be ready for the oven - so the number one rule when learning how to thaw a turkey is to plan ahead!
Roasted Turkey Photo
The safest and easiest method it to simply place your turkey in the refrigerator and wait!
This allows it to defrost gradually whilst keeping it at a safe temperature.
But you need to do this AT LEAST the day before you plan to cook the turkey - a 5 lb bird, for example, will take a full 24 hours to thaw. A very large turkey could take a couple of days!
A frozen turkey will leak a lot of juice as it thaws, so make sure you leave it in its original wrapping and sit it on a large plate or shallow tray. It's very important that those juices don't drip on to anything else in the fridge, as this could cause cross-contamination.
Once thawed, you need to cook the turkey within 2 days.
Roasted Turkey Picture

How to thaw a turkey quickly

There's nothing worse than the sinking feeling you get when you realize you've totally forgotten to take your turkey out of the freezer in time to cook it for a special meal.
Fortunately, there are a couple of ways in which you can speed up the thawing process, although you need to ensure you follow the guidelines very carefully to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
The best option is to use the 'cold water' method, which can thaw a 5 lb turkey in as little as 2.5 hours. The only drawback with this method is that it's quite labor-intensive, although if it means you can get dinner on the table as planned then it's worth it, right?
Roasted Turkey Image
All you need is a large zip-top bag. You don't need to unwrap your turkey - just place it inside, still in its wrapping, and seal it.
Next, fill your sink with cold water. Put the turkey into the water with the breast facing down and use a heavy pan or some plates to hold it in place (otherwise it may keep floating to the top).
Set a timer for 30 minutes. Once it goes off, drain out the water and refill the sink.
Repeat this process every 30 minutes until the turkey has fully thawed. 
Don't be tempted to use hot water instead of cold.
It may seem like the logical thing to do - after all, hot water would surely just hurry things along even more! But the problem is that the outer part of the turkey would begin to heat up significantly, while the inside remained frozen.
This would encourage the growth of bacteria and could lead to a case of food poisoning!
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast Pic
Once the turkey has been safely thawed with cold water, you need to cook it immediately.

How to thaw a turkey in the microwave

This method is the one we least recommend, because you can sometimes find that parts of the turkey begin to heat up before other parts are properly thawed, which can be hazardous.
If you do decide to give it a go, refer to the manufacturer's instructions for details on how long your turkey will take. There's a lot of variation from one microwave to another, so there is no set time to go by. Bear in mind that larger turkeys may still take at least an hour.
Instant Pot Turkey Breast with Carrots and Homemade Gravy Photo
Make sure you take any metals clips off of the packaging before putting a turkey into the microwave. You also need to sit it on a large plate, although you may find that this overflows during the process, in which case you need to make sure you srub the microwave thoroughly afterwards.
Transfer the turkey to the oven for cooking as soon as it has thawed.

Turkey tips

Looking for a way to make your Thanksgiving turkey even tastier and juicier? Then learn how to brine a turkey

And don't forget to see our tips for how to carve a turkey where you can learn the perfect technique to get as many servings as possible.

Turkey Recipes

    Ever fancied trying your hand at making your own turkey pastrami? Here's a great recipe from Guy Fieri himself, plus our tips for serving this tasty, traditional sandwich filling.
    Instant Pot Turkey Tenderloin with Mushroom Gravy is the perfect comfort food dinner recipe you can enjoy year-round and in under an hour. Don’t forget the mashed potatoes!
    Why go to the deli when you can make a pressure cooker turkey breast at home? Slice it thin and you can have delicious turkey sandwiches all week long!
    Everything Avocado Turkey Bagel Sandwiches are the loaded lunch that you have been dreaming of this week. Flavorful everything bagels are piled high with meat, avocado, roasted tomatoes, and a chipotle cream cheese that brings the creamy spice. It’s my new bae(gal).
    Leftover Thanksgiving Enchiladas take your leftover turkey to a whole new level of flavor. The unique combination of turkey, sweet potato, black beans, and cranberries makes for a savory and tangy filling for the spicy dish. It’s the best way to keep Thanksgiving going throughout the weekend!
    Celebrate the holidays with ease with my delicious and easy recipe for Instant Pot Turkey Breast with Carrots and Homemade Gravy. Or make it any day you’re craving a turkey dinner!
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