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How to Thaw a Turkey

Thawing a turkey couldn’t be simpler. With two easy methods, your turkey will be oven-ready in no time.

Refrigerator Thawing

Allow 1 day of thawing for every 4 pounds of turkey –use the Turkey Cooking Times for better estimates. Once thawed, use within 1 or 2 days.

Cold Water Thawing

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s not uncommon to forget to put the turkey in the fridge. Not to worry; there is another way. The cold water method.

Keep the bird in its original wrapper. This is the key to keeping the turkey safe during this rapid thaw. Examine the wrapper for any tears or punctures. If you find any, put the turkey in another large plastic bag and seal it. This is to prevent cross-contamination as well as water leaking in. Soggy turkey. Ew. Next, place the turkey, breast-side down, in either a large container or sink full of cold water. The sink works nicely as you must change the water every 30 minutes and this keeps the process easy. Changing the water every thirty minutes keeps the bird as safe as possible.

So how long does this process take? Estimate about 30 minutes per pound. See the Turkey Cooking Times for a quick calculation of how much time based on your bird size. Once the turkey is done thawing, cook immediately.

On the Counter Thawing

NEVER thaw a turkey or any meat at room temperature. It may seem like the easiest way to have meat naturally defrost, but it creates a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and toxins that may still be present even after the bird is cooked. Either thaw in the fridge or in cold water.

Note: Additional safety recommendations:

If you thawed the bird and then had a change of plans, the bird can be refrozen if it was thawed in the refrigerator. However, take note, there may be a loss in quality.  

Cooking stuffing in the bird is something we advise against. While you may have gone years and never gotten sick with a traditional stuffed bird, research has proven that the risk of bacteria is greater when cooking stuffing in a raw bird. Why take the risk? WE suggest preparing your stuffing on the stove or in the oven outside the bird instead. Using turkey or chicken broth will ensure the stuffing tastes just like it was made in the bird.

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Turkey Cooking Times

When selecting a turkey to serve to a group, estimate 1.5 pounds per person. For example, if you are serving a group of 10 people, choose a bird that is 15 to 20 pounds. If you choose a smaller bird that weighs less than 12 pounds, those birds have a smaller meat-to-bone ratio, so calculate two pounds per person.

Fresh or Thawed Turkey
Oven Temperature 325°F / 163°C

6 - 7 lbs 2 - 2½ hrs 2¼ - 2¾ hrs
7 - 10 lbs 2½ - 3 hrs 2¾ - 3½ hrs
10 - 18 lbs 3 - 3½ hrs 3¾ - 4½ hrs
18 - 22 lbs 3½ - 4 hrs 4½ - 5 hrs
22 - 24 lbs 4 - 4½ hrs 5 - 5½ hrs
24 - 30 lbs 4½ - 5 hrs 5½ - 6¼ hrs