how to thaw a turkey


Turkey defrosting tips and tricks from the Perdue Farms pros!

Wondering how to quickly defrost a turkey? Or pondering the possibility of skipping the thawing step altogether and cooking a frozen turkey? Here, Perdue Farms' culinary team shares turkey defrosting tips and turkey cooking tricks that will help you prepare a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

Place frozen turkey in a large food storage container, a pan with a high lip or the roasting pan you will use to roast the turkey in the oven. Place turkey in refrigerator and let defrost. A good rule of thumb: Allow 5 hours per pound of turkey to completely defrost a whole bird.

There is no need to rinse the turkey before you season. Doing so may displace turkey juices that contain bacteria onto cooking surfaces and your countertop. Simply remove the giblet bag in the turkey cavity and pat the skin dry.

In the rush to check off your grocery list, plan your table settings and swing by the wine shop, you forgot to pull the turkey out of the freezer and defrost. It’s day of. Now what?!

We’re not sure this classifies as “quick,” but if you have at least 4 hours to spare (not including the amount of time it will take to cook the turkey), a speed thaw is possible.

The trick is to place the frozen turkey in a large receptacle of water, which you can keep at a consistent 65 F. (We suggest placing container directly under tap, with steady flow of water. For food safety reasons, water temperature should never exceed 70 F.) Then follow these direction. (Note: Time is based on an approximately 17-pound bird):

  1. After 20 minutes in the bath, pull turkey out of water and remove packaging. Refresh water and resubmerge.
  2. After 2 1/2 hours in the bath, you will notice that turkey becomes more pliable. At hour three, remove turkey from bath and remove neck and giblets from the cavity. Refresh water and resubmerge.
  3. Keep turkey in the bath until a digital meat thermometer inserted into breast meat and all the way to bone registers 28 F.
  4. Remove turkey from the bath, pat dry and season.

No time for a speed thaw? It may sound impossible, but you can indeed cook a frozen turkey – and you may be pleasantly surprised by the result.

Here’s how to do it, while maintaining turkey’s moisture:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Run frozen turkey under 65 F water to loosen up and remove the plastic wrapping.
  3. Place mirepoix (chopped carrots, celery and onions) in a roasting pan and place the frozen turkey on top. Pour chicken stock or water in the bottom of the pan (will help create a steam environment to speed up cooking). Cover turkey with foil and place in the oven. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Meanwhile, make a compound butter by combining ghee or clarified butter, fresh chopped garlic, salt and pepper, fresh thyme and fresh rosemary. Remove turkey from oven. Lift off foil and remove neck and giblets from the cavity. Rub butter mixture over entire surface of turkey and wherever you can reach inside the bird.
  5. Place turkey, uncovered, back in the oven. Increase oven temperature to 350 F and cook until digital meat thermometer registers 175 F. (Note: For a 19-lb. bird, the cooking process took almost 7 1/2 hours).

A thawed turkey takes 15 minutes per pound to cook. A frozen turkey will take 50% longer, or about 22 1/2 minutes per pound. A 12-pound turkey, which would cook in about three hours if fully thawed, requires 4 1/2 hours to cook from frozen.

Estimated Cooking Times for Frozen Turkeys

  • 8- to 12-pound turkey: 4 to 4 1/2 hours
  • 12- to 14-pound turkey: 4 1/2 to 5 3/4 hours
  • 14- to 18-pound turkey: 5 3/4 to 6 1/4 hours
  • 18- to 20-pound turkey: 6 1/4 to 6 3/4 hours
  • 20- to 24-pound turkey: 6 3/4 to 7 1/2 hours

  • Juicy meat: Steam escaping from the frozen center of bird helps to create a layer of moisture.
  • More flavorful stock: The turkey has more time to caramelize in the oven, which intensifies the flavor of pan drippings and any stock or gravy you make from it.
  • More storage space: Skipping the thawing process frees up fridge space.
  • Less risk of cross contamination: Cooking from frozen is a cleaner process — no raw poultry juices!
  • Money savings: The brining process is unnecessary as are the additional seasonings and spices needed to make the brine.

  • Less control over browning
  • The larger the bird, the longer it will take to cook and the dryer it will be.
  • Hard to predict cooking time and doneness, as every oven is different and degree to which a whole bird is frozen varies (i.e. whole bird stored in deep freezer vs. conventional freezer).
  • Turkey will initially cook with some plastic (i.e. giblet bag) inside the cavity.

These cooking methods have been tested, but cooking conditions may vary. Proper handling, preparation, storage and cooking of food products is recommended, and when possible, it is always recommended that raw poultry be thoroughly thawed in a refrigerator before cooking. Internal temperature of any poultry should always reach 165 F, which should be checked with a food thermometer to ensure food is thoroughly cooked. The recipes and methods described herein are made without representations or warranties of any kind and use of these promotional materials shall be at your own risk.

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