Thaw Your Turkey In The Refrigerator

Why You Should Thaw Your Turkey In The Refrigerator Just In Time For Thanksgiving


Turkey remains the undeniable centerpiece of every Thanksgiving in almost any household, and there are advantages to paying your local store a visit to purchase it frozen. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), turkeys can be frozen indefinitely, though they should be cooked within a year for the best possible taste.

But here’s the catch, my friend: you need to properly thaw your turkey to successfully cook your Thanksgiving turkey. While there are plenty of thawing methods out there, there is just one way to make sure that your turkey is properly thawed in time for Thanksgiving, or possibly any other day. And that’s going to be our topic for today’s blog post! 

We here at DaDongNY will provide you with the guidelines you’ll need to organize your turkey thawing and guarantee that it’s done in a safe manner. We will also be giving you the answer to your question, “How long does it take to thaw a frozen turkey inside the refrigerator?”

But First, What Exactly Is The “Thawing” Process

Thawing is the process of melting food frozen in your refrigerator so that it can be consumed or prepped for serving. And since food becomes more susceptible to bacterial growth as it warms, it becomes crucial to acknowledge how various foods should be defrosted at various times as well as in different ways. 

For instance, frozen meats, seafood, fruits, and vegetables must be thawed in the refrigerator to minimize harmful microorganisms that would expand if the food had been defrosted in warmer conditions. While you’re at it, put a container underneath the item that is being thawed in order to collect any liquids which are released throughout the process. Furthermore, larger chunks of meat and poultry might require more time to warm up in the refrigerator.

Of course, not every food needs to be defrosted in a refrigerator or out on the counter. Foods which are going to be consumed shortly after thawing can be reheated using a microwave via the defrosting mode. Similarly, frozen veggies can be thawed by soaking them in warm water immediately after being taken from the freezer compartment. After thawing, you should serve it for consumption the same day, especially if it’s been refrigerated beforehand and then frozen.

The Best Way To Defrost A Turkey In A Refrigerator

The most effective way to thaw a turkey is to set it directly on a sheet pan with the breast part facing up in the refrigerator at 37°F room temperature. With that, your turkey should defrost slowly and surely.

But the million-dollar question still stands: how long does it take to thaw a frozen turkey inside the refrigerator? For every 3 ½ to 4 pounds of turkey, you should be able to thaw it inside your refrigerator within 24 hours. That implies an average-sized, 16-pound turkey will require approximately 4 days to defrost inside the refrigerator. While this method needs the least hands-on labor, it also takes the longest.

Thawing Chart For Turkey

Here’s how long it takes to defrost a turkey using the rule of 24 hours for every 3 1/2 to 4 pounds of weight:

3 to 4 pounds24 hours (1 day)
4 to 8 pounds48 hours (2 days)
8 to 12 pounds72 hours (3 days)
12 to 16 pounds96 hours (4 days)
16 to 20 pounds120 hours (5 days)
20 to 24 pounds144 hours (6 days)

Due to the time it takes to thaw a frozen turkey, it’s preferable to get one ready a week before Thanksgiving. Then, place it on the lowest part of your refrigerator shelves, preferably with a sheet pan, to ensure that if something spills off of it, you don’t cross-contaminate it until you’re ready to cook for the big day. 

If you’re going to serve a huge turkey to your family, always give it a week for the best result. On the other hand, a small one would only take a whim to thaw, and a newly thawed turkey could stay fresh in the refrigerator for at least three days at most.

Refrigerated Turkey Thawing Tips

  1. While the turkey is thawing, keep it in its original packaging.
  2. Put the turkey with its breast part facing up on top of a baking pan to prevent any juices from contaminating other things inside or within the surface of your refrigerator.
  3. Refrigerate the thawed turkey for no less than 2 days ahead of cooking.

This May Also Interest You: The Proper Methods of Thawing Frozen Foods

Alternative Thawing Methods

If you don’t have enough time to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator for Thanksgiving, keep calm because we’ve got you covered! We have various alternatives for you to explore in order to ensure that your family and guests enjoy the Thanksgiving turkey dish you saw online.

Thawing A Turkey With The Sink

Although thawing turkey under a sink gull cold water happens to be faster than the refrigerator method, it is unsafe to keep it in the sink overnight.

Here’s how long it takes to defrost a turkey using the rule of 30 minutes for every pound of weight:

4- to 12-pounds2 to 6 hours
12- to 16-pounds6 to 8 hours
20- to 24-pounds10 to 12 hours

To properly thaw your turkey in the sink, follow these steps:

  1. Keep the turkey packaging on and place it inside a plastic bag big enough to store it.
  2. Fill the vessel halfway with cold water and place the turkey, breast part facing down, in it and make sure that it is well covered.
  3. Once every thirty minutes, change the water and periodically flip the plastic bag.

You can thaw your turkey on the day of or before you start cooking it with this method or store it in your refrigerator until the time comes for you to cook it.

Thawing A Turkey With The Sink

To defrost the turkey in the microwave, see your oven’s instructions manual for guidelines on thawing a frozen turkey. The duration and power settings are going to vary amongst models. Furthermore, it might probably take you a couple of hours or more, depending on the size of your turkey.

To properly thaw your turkey in the microwave oven, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the turkey from its packaging and remove any tags.
  2. Place the turkey in a microwave-safe pan, breast part facing up, to collect any drippings.
  3. After thawing the turkey, clean the internal components of your microwave in order to prevent the risk of cross-contamination.
  4. Cook the turkey straight away after it has been completely thawed.

Thawing A Turkey In A Dire Situation

In case you didn’t have enough time to let your turkey finish defrosting in the refrigerator, only to find it still somewhat frozen on Thanksgiving day. Don’t worry; you can still gobble up the store-bought turkey with the family; you just have to speed things up, given that you are stuck in a dilemma. Here are the following steps for you:

  1. Incorporate the refrigerator and sink methods to defrost. Grab your partly frozen turkey from the fridge and thaw it in the sink for as long as needed until it’s ready. This can also be done the day before in order to ensure that the turkey is all set before anyone arrives on Thanksgiving dinner.
  1. Pour cold water on the partially thawed turkey.
  1. Once you’re done, wipe away whatever drips within or around your sink as quickly as possible to prevent raw turkey juices from contacting and contaminating anything near it.

Checking If Your Turkey Is Properly Thawed

Take the temperature of your turkey to make sure it is completely thawed. Insert the pointed tip of your food thermometer repeatedly into the wrapping to penetrate the inside of the breast. Inspect the thermometer for reading between 30°F and 40°F.

As you pass the ends of the thermometer through the turkey meat, keep an eye on the display: the value with the lowest value is the most essential during the thawing process. Keep thawing if the temperature falls below 30°F.

Avoiding Mistakes When Quick-Thawing Your Turkey

Now that you are familiar with how to thaw a turkey using your refrigerator and different methods apart from it. Now, regardless of how tempted you are, let’s discuss what you shouldn’t do. Refrain from the doing these mistakes when thawing a turkey:

  • Allowing your turkey to defrost on the counter for several hours;
  • Exposure to hot water;
  • Using a heating pad to thaw;
  • Using a hair dryer to thaw;
  • And taking any other thawing shortcuts.

The risk of causing food-related disease to you and those in attendance is simply too big. If any portion of the turkey has been subjected to a temperature range of 40°F to 140°F for more than two hours, the likelihood that it has generated potentially dangerous quantities of bacteria and associated toxins rises. 

Therefore, regardless of whether the inside of the turkey remains frozen, it could still be in danger once its outer layer thaws to temperatures above 40°F. But completely cooking your turkey in the oven does not guarantee it is safe to consume; most bacteria will be gone from the equation, but illness-causing chemicals are still present.

While there are several situations when you are free to deviate from food safety regulations, this is one of those instances when putting yourself in jeopardy isn’t worth it.


It might be a nightmare if your turkey does not defrost for Thanksgiving. However, following the instructions we mentioned above will relieve all of your worries away.

If you’re the type who plans everything ahead of time, figure in 24 hours of refrigerator time for every frozen 3 1⁄2 to 4-pound turkey. Thaw them on a parchment-covered baking sheet or in a roasting pan. If you intend to air-dry your turkey, allow for extra time.

Suppose you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to defrost the meat in the refrigerator. Our suggested alternatives should help you save Thanksgiving and give your family a supper they will remember.

To learn more about refrigerators and how this valuable piece of equipment chills the food and beverages inside, including your breast milk, check out the post here.

Articles You May Be Interested In