When Should You Start Thawing Your Turkey

By Melissa Moore on November 16, 2023
SONOMA, CA – NOVEMBER 24: With less than one week before Thanksgiving, turkeys walk around a barn at the Willie Bird Turkey Farm November 24, 2008 in Sonoma, California. An estimated forty-five million turkeys are cooked and eaten during annual Thanksgiving meals in the United States. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

I admit that I’m a throw the frozen chicken in the sink to thaw for dinner kind of girl.  I will also tell you that ‘experts’ say this is not the way to do it where safety is concerned.

As for Thanksgiving thawing on the counter or in the sink is NOT the recommended method and not safe.

According to the USDA website, there is a right and safe way to thaw your frozen turkey- but you need to get on it!

  1. Plan Ahead! – Allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator 
  2. Place turkey in a container to catch any ‘juices’ from dripping in the refrigerator or on other foods

If you’re thawing a whole turkey- here is a rough idea of how long it takes to thaw in the refrigerator.

  • 4-12 pound frozen turkey- 1-3 days in refrigerator
  • 12-16 pound frozen turkey – 3-4 days
  • 16-20 pound frozen turkey – 4-5 day
  • 20-24 pound frozen turkey – 5-6 days

Also, once the turkey is thawed it can set in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking.  Good tips on the USDA website and info on cold water thawing.

Safe cooking & Happy Thanksgiving!




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