How To Thaw A Frozen Turkey

Thanksgiving is only a couple days away.  If you haven’t started thawing your turkey already, start now!  One of the questions I get asked most often is what to do with a frozen turkey. If it’s crunch time, and your bird is still a solid block, don’t panic, you have options!

Planning ahead is essential to a Foolproof Thanksgiving, but sometimes, we wake up on Thanksgiving morning with a frozen or partially frozen bird, and need to thaw it in a hurry. The best way to thaw a turkey is in the fridge. It can take days for a turkey to thaw completely, taking about 24 hours of thawing time for every 4 pounds of turkey.  Thaw turkey in the fridge, where it’s too cold that bacteria cannot grow.  Use the bottom shelf, in case of drips. Place the turkey, breast side up, in it’s original wrapper onto a rimmed baking sheet.  After a turkey is thawed, it can remain in the fridge for up to two days. 

If you’re reading this on Thanksgiving morning, it’s too late for your bird to completely thaw in the fridge. You’re probably wondering, how am I going to get this bird defrosted in time to make dinner or, can I cook a bird from frozen?  The answer to both is, YES! Keep reading to learn how to thaw a turkey in cold water, and how to roast a turkey from frozen.

How To Thaw A Turkey In Cold Water

If your turkey is still frozen on Thanksgiving morning, the second best way to thaw it is by giving the turkey a cold water bath.  If the turkey has been thawing in the fridge for a few days, 30-45 minutes should do the trick.  Submerge the turkey, breast side down in a large sink of cold water, make sure that the water is not able to leak in to the packaging.  Allow 30 minutes of defrosting time for every pound of turkey, changing the water, and turning the turkey often. This “quick” method for thawing a turkey isn’t necessarily very quick, since a 16 pound turkey can take 8 hours to thaw!  The cold water will thaw your turkey, and keep it out of the temperature danger zone, thawing it evenly, and keeping the bird chilled and safe. If your turkey doesn’t fit in your sink or biggest pot, thaw it in a cooler or just be sure to flip it frequently. Never thaw turkey in warm or hot water.  

How To Cook A Frozen Turkey

On average, a frozen turkey will take 50% longer to cook.  To cook a turkey from frozen, unwrap the bird, and place on a rack in a roasting pan.  Close the oven and cook, undisturbed for 1 ½ hours.  After this time, you should be able to carefully remove the bag of giblets from the cavity.  Brush the skin with an herb butter and cover with foil.  Cook, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkeys thigh registers 165 degrees.  DO NOT DEEP FRY A FROZEN TURKEY!

Once your turkey has partially thawed, you can Spatchcock it. Spatchcocking is a fancy way of saying butterflying the turkey.   Spatchcocking allows the turkey to cook as evenly as possible, allowing the legs to reach a safe temperature without overcooking the breast, resulting in a perfectly cooked turkey in 90 minutes! Because of this shorter cooking time, it allows more time for the frozen bird to thaw, without having to cook from frozen.

Turkey Recipes

To get the turkey ready for roasting, take the bird out of its plastic wrapper in the sink, remove the neck and giblets packet from the cavity, and rinse it well, inside and out, being careful not to splash any of the water on the kitchen counter.  Place a clean kitchen towel on a work surface and put the bird onto the towel.  Pat the bird completely dry with paper towels.  For crispier skin, unwrap the turkey the day before and allow to finish defrosting in the fridge. 

Spatchcocked Cajun Turkey
Brined Turkey Breast


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