Thanksgiving dinner: When to thaw a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner?

Thanksgiving is a national holiday across the United States, Canada, Liberia and some Caribbean Islands. Traditionally it is held on the second Monday of October in Canada, but the fourth Thursday of November in America. This year, Americans will gather to eat their Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, November 28.

A Thanksgiving dinner is a challenge and requires organisation, good time management and knowledge of food safety.

Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday as well.

Turkey is deemed the staple of the celebration, along with a whole host of pumpkin-themed goods.

To ensure your loved ones go home happy rather than with food poisoning, has compiled a guide on when and how to thaw a turkey safely.


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How to thaw a Thanksgiving turkey?

There are several ways you can thaw a turkey: in the fridge, in cold water and in the microwave.

Do not thaw a turkey on the kitchen countertop as it can become a hub for dangerous bacteria.

Instead, be sure to use your fridge.

Before you put it in the fridge, be sure to transfer the turkey and lay it on a rimmed tray which should catch any leaks.

Place it breast side up and wrap it tightly with plastic wraps.

When should you thaw a turkey if using a fridge?

The time for defrosting depends on its size.

You must allow 24 hours worth of defrosting time for every four to five pounds of meat according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Therefore, if a turkey weighs four to 12 pounds, you must ensure to defrost it in the fridge for one to three days.

If it is 12 to 16 pounds, you must ensure it is placed in the fridge three to four days before you plan to cook it.


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Thawing a turkey in cold water

If you are thawing a turkey in cold water, you must ensure the plastic wrap around the turkey is completely leak-proof before submerging the bird.

If not, there is a risk of cross-contamination.

To thaw a turkey in cold water, fill a clean bowl big enough to submerge the turkey fully with cold tap water.

Place the wrapped turkey in the water and change the water every half hour to ward off nasty bacteria.

If defrosting in cold water, you need to allow 30 minutes for each pound of turkey, meaning two to six hours for a four to 12 pound turkey.

Thawing a turkey using a microwave

Before deciding to use a microwave to thaw a turkey you must ensure your bird fits into the microwave and has additional space to spin.

If your turkey is small enough, you need to put it in without any wrapping on a microwave-safe setting.

Use the defrost button and put in the weight of the turkey, then simply leave the microwave to defrost the bird.

If your microwave does not have a defrost setting, you need to work out the time for the bird based on its weight.

A good general guide to follow would be six minutes per pound.

Another tip is to ensure you rotate and flip the bird as microwaves can be uneven during the thawing process.

Tips for thawing your turkey

  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed before cooking – you can do this by reaching one hand inside the bird and checking for ice crystals and using a fork to poke the thicker parts of the turkey.
  • Be sure to cook a turkey immediately after it has thawed, leaving it means that any bacteria may begin to grow and could make anyone that consumes the bird unwell.
  • You can keep a defrosted turkey in the fridge for two days at the very most, otherwise it can become dangerous.

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