Thawing a Turkey

Want to learn how to thaw a turkey? Read on to discover the procedure for thawing turkeys…

While you are thawing the turkey it must be kept at a safe temperature to avoid contamination by multiplying bacteria. A frozen turkey eliminates the growth of bacteria because of the freezing temperature. However it is a different case when the temperature drops while it is being defrosted. This is mainly because bacteria which were already present in the meat can start multiplying as the temperature drops.

Any frozen meat or poultry which has been sitting on the counter for more than two hours to defrost is not safe in terms of the temperature. While the center of the meat may be frozen the exterior is a different story and the temperatures can range between 40° to 140°F, at that point bacteria and start multiplying quickly.

Three Safe Methods for Thawing a Turkey

The best methods for defrosting a turkey are using your refrigerator, placing it in cold water or heating it in the microwave. If you’re not going to cook your turkey immediately after purchase then simply place it in the freezer till you use it. This is a safe practice for any kind of meat or poultry that will be cooked within a reasonable interval.

Thawing Turkey in the Refrigerator

You will need about of 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds turkey to defrost in a fridge at a temperature of 40°F or lower. Make sure you place the turkey in a strainer which has another pan at the bottom. This allows you collect the juices which drip as the turkey defrosts. The time required for a turkey to defrost in the refrigerator depends entirely on the weight.

A whole turkey which ranges from 4 to 12 pounds can defrost in one to three days, while the turkey that weighs between 20 to 24 pounds will take approximately 5 to 6 days to defrost completely. Once the turkey has completely defrosted, you can actually keep it in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours before cooking it. It is generally not advised to freeze this meat again because it will lose some of its quality.

Using Cold Water Thawing

This method requires approximately 30 minutes for each pound of turkey meat. Open a large leak proof plastic Ziploc bag and place the turkey inside it. This will stop the juices from leaking out and prevent contamination along with preventing the poultry from absorbing any water thereby losing its quality and texture.

Place this packaged turkey in a bowl of cold water and keep changing the water every 30 minutes until the meat has been defrosted completely. You must cook this turkey immediately after it has been defrosted. You can freeze the cooked meat of a turkey that has been defrosted in cold water.

Using a Microwave to Thaw a Turkey

There is normally a button on a microwave oven with instructions to defrost a turkey. Follow these instructions to thaw the turkey meat and then cook it immediately after it has thawed. The reason for this is that the heat of the microwave is not even on the meat and some areas of the whole turkey might be warm as compared to others. Since it is partially cooked, the bacteria are not completely destroyed in the poultry and hence it is recommended to cook it immediately to prevent contamination.


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