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How to Defrost a Turkey

What to Do If Your Turkey's Still Frozen

If it's crunch time and you've reached for the turkey in the fridge only to realize it's still a frigid solid mass, don't freeze: we've got some methods for quick thawing, pointers for how to know when your turkey's completely defrosted, and what to do if you don't have time to thaw your bird.

For our favorite quick-thaw method, try submerging the turkey (breast-side down with its wrapping still on) in a sink or a cooler full of cold water, changing out the water every half hour. Allow 30 minutes to thaw for each pound of turkey. FYI, a 16-pound turkey will take eight hours. (If math's not your thing, then simply plug the weight of your turkey into this defrost calculator.)

Once you've allowed your turkey to thaw, perform two tests on the bird to confirm that it's completely defrosted: reach your hand into the bird's cavity to make sure there aren't any ice crystals, and poke the thicker parts of the turkey with a fork. If you get icicles doing either one of these, then your turkey needs more time to warm up.

Hours of thawing time may not be an option, in which case you can simply cook the bird in its frozen state: Allow four-and-a-half to six hours, as opposed to the usual three-and-a-half hours, to cook a 12- to 13-pound thawed turkey. Don't stuff it; this will up the cooking time even more. When ready, the turkey should reach at least 165ºF at the thickest part of the inner thigh.

Image Source: Shutterstock
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Join The Conversation
Jenna3504958 Jenna3504958 3 years
I had to buy my turkey late this year and on a budget. So it was frozen. I usually use a dry brine. This year I am trying a liquid brine, and putting it in the cooler. since the brine is cold and uses ice water that should also act as a defroster as well. Thanks for the suggestion of the cooler.
RoaringSilence RoaringSilence 5 years
Thanks for the tip.. I'd also like to suggest that getting two small turkeys, rather than one huge one, will take less thawing and cooking time and probably even leave the turkey moister.
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