Faith Communities Alive!


FCA Logo

| Share

Thaw Your Turkey Safely

Are you planning to have turkey during the holidays? If you bought a frozen turkey, you need to know how to thaw it before it is cooked and served. Food poisoning is not a fun follow-up to Thanksgiving dinner.

Keeping food safe requires some planning.

First, decide the size of the turkey you need for your dinner with family. The weight of a turkey will be the deciding factor for how long you need to thaw it. Next, decide on the time you will need the turkey ready for dinner and plan according.

Remember: Never thaw a turkey on the counter at room temperature.

Try one of the three safe methods to thaw your turkey:

  • In the refrigerator - The refrigerator is one of the safest places to ensure your turkey will thaw at a consistent rate. If you decide to do this method, defrosting the turkey might take up to a week.
  • In cold water with the wrapping still on it - Clean the sink, then fill it with cold water and submerge the turkey in the water. Change the water about every 30 minutes so the turkey defrosts at a consistent and safe temperature.
  • In the microwave - This may not be very practical, depending on the size of the bird. If you plan to use the microwave, make sure your turkey will fit in it. Then place the turkey in a microwavable dish and select the proper power level and defrosting time. Make sure to rotate the turkey every so often to prevent uneven thawing. This method probably works best with a turkey breast or very small bird.

Turkey Thawing Chart

Pound birdFridgeSink (cold water)

4 to 12 pounds

1 to 3 days

2 to 6 hours

12 to 16 pounds 3 to 4 days 6 to 8 hours
16 to 24 pounds 4 to 5 days 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days 10 to 12 hours

Linh Tran, Community Nutrition Intern, NDSU Extension


Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.