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Storage of Meats Poultry and Seafood
Turkey Meat

How long do you defrost a frozen turkey in the refrigerator?


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November 15, 2012 8:45PM

According to the Iowa State University Extension:

"Defrost the turkey in its original wrapper on a tray in the refrigerator 24 hours for each five pounds. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature. You may also place the wrapped turkey in the sink and cover it completely with cold water. This method requires about 30 minutes per pound. If the wrapping is torn, place the turkey in another plastic bag, close securely, and then place in water. The National Turkey Federation recommends every 30 minutes as a rule of thumb."

It is very true that you can not count on a turkey to be defrosted on time. It is, however, safe to have a thawed bird in the refrigerator a day or two before cooking, so plan accordingly.

But You Don't Have the Time Or Space? Here's Another Choice: Brining

Defrosting a turkey not only takes up a lot of room in your refrigerator, but can take up to 2 days or even longer. I get a large clean tub and put cold water and salt in it. I keep changing the water approximately every 4 hours and putting a little more salt in it (not too much.) If you put it in the water with salt in the morning it should be thawed by the next morning. Take the turkey out and put it into a clean kitchen sink and run cold water over it and be sure you rinse it VERY well. Then take paper toweling and pat dry INSIDE AND OUT!

WikiAnswers contributors share their turkey tips:

  • Basting is a big no-no. It does nothing for the flavor or juiciness of the turkey, and it adds hours on to cooking.
  • You can tell if the turkey is done checking your leave-in meat thermometer (which you can get at most grocery stores for a few bucks), which is stuck into the thickest part of the thigh or breast (without touching the bone). It's done when it's at 165 degrees F.
  • Take the turkey and put it on a warm platter and cover with foil and let sit 20 minutes to 1/2 hour before carving.
  • DON'T put your turkey into the refrigerator while it is warm. Wait until it cools (approximately 40 - 45 minutes) and then cover it and put it into the fridge. NEVER leave turkey out for hours.
  • Many people will not stuff their turkey (and shouldn't since it's a breeding ground for bacteria in the cavity and the stuffing needs to be cooked longer than the turkey, resulting in over-cooked, dry meat), but make it separately and put it in a sack (you can buy them in a grocery store) or cheese cloth and tie off the top of the sack. Some people use Uncle Ben's Turkey stuffing which is delicious and I always add dried cranberries to the stuffing and wow! It's delicious and gives the stuffing a nice taste.
  • For a great, quick (yes, quick) recipe look for Alton Brown's Brined Turkey recipe from his show "Good Eats." You'll never make turkey the same again.