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.
How Long to Defrost a Turkey in the Fridge
If you're trying to avoid this situation in the first place and want to defrost your bird in the fridge, set it unopened on a tray breast-side up. For every four pounds of turkey, it'll need about a day in the fridge to defrost completely — once defrosted, it can sit in the fridge for up to four days before cooking.
How to Thaw a Turkey Quickly
If you've missed the fridge thawing window, try our favorite quick-thaw method: submerge 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 isn't your thing, then simply plug the weight of your turkey into Butterball's turkey defrost time 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.
How to Cook a Frozen Turkey
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 increase the cooking time even more. When ready, the turkey should reach at least 165°F at the thickest part of the inner thigh.