thaw a turkey

If you’re trying to thaw a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, you might want to start now as time is running out. Here are the 3 ways to thaw a turkey.

  • Refrigerator – How to thaw? Rule of thumb is 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of bird. It’s safe to store the turkey 1-2 days after it thawed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended thawing times for a whole turkey in the refrigerator. 4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days, 12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days, 16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days, 20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days
  • Cold Water – How to thaw? Submerge the turkey in cold water and repeat every 30 minutes. If you use this method you want to cook the turkey ASAP. Make sure you put the turkey in a leak sealed bag so no cross contamination occurs and nobody wants a bird filled with water.
  • Microwave – Yes, believe it or not you can thaw your turkey in the microwave. This is the last resort!  Use your defrost option on your microwave and the time will depend on the size of the bird. Again, you will want to cook the turkey once this is completed.

If none of these options will work for you, it’s possible to cook a frozen turkey but it will take at least 50% longer to cook and there is a good chance you will have some frozen spots.

If your having issues this Thanksgiving and need some help there a few hotlines you can call (1-888-674-6854) 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or E-mail: Or “Ask Karen,” FSIS’ Web-based automated response system – available 24/7 at

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