How long it will take your turkey to thaw mostly depends on the weight of the bird, but other factors, like how often your refrigerator is opened and if the turkey was injected or is "natural," also make a difference. Once you've mastered buying and handling a whole turkey, you may need to freeze it until your big meal is closer. See more about how long turkey keeps in the freezer. Or perhaps the turkey you bought was already frozen. Before you can start seasoning and cooking a delicious turkey, it needs to be well-thawed. Here are a couple of ways we recommend to defrost a turkey.
This is the best and safest way to defrost any poultry, meat, or fish. It's also totally hands-off: You just need to plan a few days ahead to be sure to allow enough time for the bird to fully thaw. Never try thawing at room temperature.
To thaw your turkey in the refrigerator:
Defrosting a Turkey Tip: Our Test Kitchen found that injected turkeys take longer to thaw than natural turkeys. You may want to budget an extra day for thawing if your turkey was injected with a solution of water, salt, and/or spices. Read the packaging carefully to see if this was done. Most turkeys we found in stores had been treated with this solution even if the packaging said all-natural. Don't panic, though—the solution added is there simply to help the turkey stay moist and to add flavor.
How long does it take to defrost a turkey in the fridge?
We found you need 1 day in the fridge for every 3.5 to 4 pounds of turkey. An average-size turkey today takes about 4 days to thaw in the fridge.
Thawing a turkey in a sink full of cold water is faster than thawing in the refrigerator, but it's not safe to leave it in the sink to thaw overnight.
To thaw your turkey in the sink:
Sink-Thawing Tip: Using this method to thaw your turkey allows you to do it the day of or day before roasting and store it in the refrigerator until cooking time.
How long does it take to defrost a turkey in the sink?
We recommended thawing a 4- to 12-pound turkey in cold water for 2 to 6 hours, a 12- to 16-pound turkey for 6 to 8 hours, or a 20- to 24-pound turkey for 10 to 12 hours (about 30 minutes per pound).
It has happened to all of us: We thought we allowed plenty of time for our turkey to thaw in the refrigerator only to find it's still a bit icy Thanksgiving day. Don't worry: You can still enjoy a delectable turkey, but you just need to speed things up. Here are your options:
Safety Tip: Promptly clean up any splatters in and around your sink to prevent raw meat juices from touching anything else.
Ready to start cooking? Get our turkey roasting tips here.