Preparing the turkey is the first step in any Thanksgiving meal plan. Before you start seasoning and stuffing though, you’ll need to know how to thaw a turkey. Nothing will ruin the holiday faster than a house full of sick family members, so follow our directions to ensure a safe, delicious Thanksgiving dinner.
Choosing How to Thaw a Turkey
While buying a fresh turkey is certainly an option, most people will go with a frozen bird from the grocery store. Technically, there are three ways you can go about thawing it, but we only recommend two of them unless you have no other choice.
Thawing in the Refrigerator
The safest answer to how to thaw a turkey is to use your refrigerator. It’s cold enough to prevent dangerous bacteria from growing, but warm enough for your turkey to defrost over time.
The only problem is it takes lots of time, so you’ll need to plan ahead. The thawing period is 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. That means an average-sized bird will require anywhere from 3-5 days in the refrigerator before cooking. Just follow these steps:
- Check that your refrigerator is at or below 40° F
- Keep the turkey wrapped
- Place on a dish or plate to collect juices
- Keep on the bottom refrigerator shelf
Thawing in Cold Water
If you missed your window and don’t have time to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, you can use the cold water method. Beware though; this takes hard work and dedication to get right. Fill your sink with water 40° F or colder and submerge your bird for 30 minutes per pound.
The problem is that keeping the water temperature below 40° F will require you to change it every half hour, putting the number of water changes between 15-20 times in total. That’s annoying, and your tap water isn’t cold enough either. You’ll have to add ice regularly to keep the temperature down and avoid salmonella.
Unsafe Thawing Methods
Some say that using a microwave to thaw a turkey is a safe and viable method, but we strongly suggest you avoid it. Microwaves come in all different sizes, power levels, and wattages, so they all cook differently. Not to mention the fact that your turkey will inevitably end up cooked in some spots and still frozen in others.
The worst thing you can do though is to thaw your frozen turkey by leaving it out at room temperature, or by defrosting it with hot water. You’re pretty much guaranteed a dose of food poisoning if you leave poultry out for more than two hours, so be very careful!
Turkey Cooking Instructions
Much like thawing, the amount of time you cook your turkey for depends on its size. The consensus is to set your oven to 325° F and cook your bird for about 15 minutes per pound. Times will vary depending on whether your turkey is stuffed or unstuffed, so place a meat thermometer in the deepest part of the leg and let it cook until the gauge reads 165° F.
Remove the turkey from the oven once the internal temperature has reached a safe level. Don’t dig in right away though! You’ll need to let it stand for at least 20 minutes so it can finish cooking and form a crispy crust.
Knowing how to thaw a turkey is just one of many Thanksgiving challenges. Your appliances also need to be in working order, so call GFY Appliance Repair for all of your holiday appliance service needs!