Thawing a whole turkey: the 3 safe methods the USDA advises and how you should never do it

Thawing turkey at room temperature is not a safe method.

Photo: RODNAE Productions / Pexels

One of the most important things to consider ahead of time when planning to cook turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is thawing. The safest way to thaw turkey is in the refrigerator. But if you did not have the time to defrost it in advance, there are other safe ways to do it the day you will cook it and we explain how to do it.

Thawing turkey at room temperature is not a safe method. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that bacteria can multiply rapidly in meat if it is left at room temperature.

What to do if the day to cook the turkey has arrived and it is still frozen

It is perfectly safe to cook a frozen turkey; it just takes 50 percent longer to cook than a thawed turkey. You can also use the cold water defrosting method and using the microwave.

The best way to make sure the turkey is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer. bird must reach 165 ° F. Insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and brim and the thickest part of the breast.

3 safe ways to thaw a turkey

1. In the refrigerator

Turkey thawed in the refrigerator requires one day for every 4 to 5 pounds of weight. That is, if a turkey weighs 16 pounds, it will take about four days to thaw. Once thawed, the turkey is safe for another two days in the refrigerator before cooking.

2. In cold water

To thaw with cold water, leave the turkey in its original packaging and submerge it in the sink or in a container filled with cold water. Replace water with fresh water every 30 minutes to keep the turkey at a safe temperature.

The water defrost method allows a required period of 30 minutes for every pound of turkey. Once thawed, the turkey should be cooked immediately.

3. In a microwave oven

Before attempting to defrost your turkey in the microwave, check that the bird will fit in the appliance. Remove all wrapping from the turkey and place it on a microwave-safe plate to catch any juices that drip. Use the defrost function based on weight.

When thawing a turkey in the microwave, generally 6 minutes per pound are required. During the defrosting process, you need to rotate the bird several times and even turn it over.

The turkey may begin to cook, if this happens, let the bird rest for about 5 minutes before resuming defrosting. Once thawed, cook the turkey immediately.

How you should not defrost a turkey

Thawing a turkey on the counter, in a paper or plastic bag, in the dishwasher or elsewhere at room temperature or in the “danger zone” between 40 F and 140 F is not a safe method.

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