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How to thaw a turkey

how to thaw a turkey Now that you’ve got a frozen bird waiting to be roasted, you need to know how to thaw a turkey. No matter what you may have seen or heard, leaving a frozen turkey out on the counter overnight is NOT how to thaw a turkey. It’s not safe—don’t do it! And while Grandma may have passed a stuffing recipe down to you, chances are she didn’t teach you how to thaw a turkey. That’s why we’re here to help.

Be sure to thaw your frozen turkey in the wrapper it came in, unopened. Place it breast-side up on a tray in the refrigerator. Here’s a chart you can use to determine thaw times.

Turkey size Thawing time
(in the refrigerator)
8-12 lb. 2-3 days
12-14 lb. 3-3½ days
14-18 lb. 3½-4½ days
18-20 lb. 4½-5 days

Once thawed, your turkey will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. Bearing that in mind, err on the side of thawing a day or two too soon so you don’t have to do a last-minute thaw. Also, if you plan to brine your turkey you need to plan a day for that.

If you do procrastinate, you can thaw your turkey in cold water. Place the still-wrapped turkey in a container large enough to allow it to be covered with water. Fill the container with cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. This method will thaw a turkey at the rate of about 1 pound every 30 minutes. An 18-pound turkey will take 9 hours. That’s why it’s best to plan ahead!

NEVER thaw a turkey out on the counter or in warm water - you could create the perfect environment for bacteria and end up with a family trip to the emergency room instead of a family weekend of fun.

how to thaw a turkey
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