Thawing Your Thanksgiving Turkey

When it comes to thawing your Thanksgiving turkey, it’s important to plan in advance. The best way to go about the thawing process is actually through refrigeration. While the custom over the years may have been to allow your turkey to take up residency on the countertop as it thawed, this can be rather dangerous.

During the thawing process, the outer portions of the turkey thaw significantly faster than the interior. It’s likely that if you are thawing your bird on the countertop, the outer portion will reach room temperature long before the internal portions of the bird even begin to thaw.

Because bacteria can grow on foods in the “danger zone” of 41-135 degrees F, it’s imperative that no part of the turkey reaches room temperature at any point in the thawing process.

To help you through the planning and process, you will find a table below for approximate thawing times. Remember that your turkey should be cooked within 24 hours of reaching a thawed state.

In case you want to check my math, the general rule of thumb for thawing is 24 hours of thawing per 5 pounds of turkey.

Pounds of Turkey Days to Thaw
8-12 pounds 1-2 days
12-16 pounds 2-3 days
16-20 pounds 3-4 days
20-24 pounds 4-5 days
Chelsea B. Sanz
Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.

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