The Amount Of Time It Takes For Turkey To Thaw In The Fridge

When Thanksgiving is on the horizon, it's time to start planning how you'll cook your turkey. While you can buy a turkey fresh, it's much easier to avoid the throngs of people at grocery stores and purchase a frozen one ahead of time. The tricky part? Thawing that massive, potentially 24-pound bird safely since the USDA cautions that poultry kept out for too long can lead to bacteria growth and foodborne illness.

The USDA advises thawing your turkey in the fridge as the safest method since your food won't hit the danger zone, which is between 40 and 140 F. Unlike with chicken breasts or ground beef, an overnight thaw just won't cut it with an entire turkey. Give yourself one day of defrosting for every four or five pounds your turkey weighs. So, if you have the aforementioned 24-pound poultry, you'll typically need at least five days to get your bird ready to cook. If you're not sure about your turkey, weigh it beforehand. If you underestimate the time it takes to fully thaw your turkey, you may be left with a half-frozen main dish on Thanksgiving morning.

Tips for thawing a turkey in the fridge

Just because your turkey is fully thawed doesn't mean you have to cook it right away. If you got an extra jump on your defrosting, the USDA assures that it's safe to leave your thawed bird in the fridge for up to two days. While it's defrosting and right up until you're ready to cook it, keep the turkey in the package you bought it in. You may also want to place it in a roasting pan so that any excess moisture doesn't get all over your fridge. Try to keep the pan away from any other food — if juices do leak out from your raw poultry, you don't want them spilling all over the rest of your refrigerated goods.

If you buy your turkey pre-brined, it may take an additional day to defrost, so be sure to double-check the packaging when figuring out how long the bird will need to defrost. If you buy a bird without any brine and you'd like to add it yourself, you can do so before it's fully thawed with a dry or wet version. The roasting pan is extra important here if you go with the latter, as you'll be adding liquid to the turkey. These steps may require a little thinking ahead, but it will be worth it when you wake up to a ready-to-cook bird on Thanksgiving morning.