Thawing a Turkey – UK Extension

Just in time for Christmas dinner prep, Martha Yount, from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, comes to the studio to talk about properly thawing a turkey.

There are three ways to thaw your turkey safely – in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven:

  • In the Refrigerator (40 °F or below) Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds
    • 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
    • Keep the turkey in its original wrapper.
    • Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak.
    • A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.
    • If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.
  • In Cold Water Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound
    • 4 to 12 pounds 2 to 6 hours
    • 12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
    • 16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
    • 20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours
    • Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping.
    • Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water.
    • Change the water every 30 minutes.
    • Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.
    • Do not refreeze.
  • In the Microwave Oven
    • Check your owner’s manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound and power level to use for thawing.
    • Remove all outside wrapping.
    • Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak.
    • Cook your turkey immediately. Do not refreeze or refrigerate your turkey after thawing in the microwave oven.
    • REMINDER: Remove the giblets from the turkey cavities after thawing. Cook separately.
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