Thawing your Thanksgiving Turkey

Safely thawing your turkey is one of the most important steps in preparing your thanksgiving meal. What could be worse than getting a food-borne illness?

To ensure you and your guests enjoy your meal without getting sick be sure to follow one of these two thawing methods:

Method 1: thaw in the refrigerator

This is the easiest method, however, it does take quite a long time, so be sure to plan ahead.

  • Make sure your refrigerator is at 40 degrees or cooler
  • Leaving the turkey in its original packaging place the turkey on a tray or pan. This will ensure that any juice won’t leak all over your fridge while thawing. Tip: Place the turkey at the bottom of your fridge just in case juice do leak out, they won’t contaminate anything below.
  • Allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 4 to 5 pounds. See chart below for additional details
Turkey Weight Thawing Time
Up to 12 pounds 1-3 days
12-16 pounds 3-4 days
16-20 pounds 4-5 days
20-24 pounds 5-6 days


Method 2: Cold Water

Cold water thawing takes less time than refrigerator thawing, but it requires a lot more attention.

  • Fill sink or large basin full of water 50 degrees or cooler
  • Leaving the turkey in the originally packaging place the turkey, breast side down, in the water. There should be enough cold water to cover your turkey completely.
  • Change water every 30 minutes to ensure that water is at least 40 degrees.
  • Turkey will take about 30 minutes to thaw for every pound.

A thawed turkey may be kept in the refrigerator up to 4 days before cooking. Feel free to start thawing early!