How Long To Thaw A Turkey (And Why)?

How Long To Thaw A Turkey (And Why)?

Exact Answer: One day in refrigerator

Thaw means to go from a frozen to a liquid or warm state. Thawing food is the process of warming food that has been frozen so that it can be eaten or prepared fast and easily to be served.

Turkey is frozen to use later because while frozen, turkey is safe indefinitely. As the turkey begins to thaw, the bacteria present in it before freezing starts to grow again. Hence, turkey or any other frozen food must be thawed safely and carefully.

How Long To Thaw A Turkey

How Long To Thaw A Turkey?

There are various methods to thaw a turkey. The time required by a turkey to thaw depends on the way used to thaw it. A turkey can be thawed in a refrigerator, or cold water, or the microwave if it’s an emergency.

It is not safe to thaw a turkey on the countertop because the temperature is not safe. These temperatures can cause bacteria to grow which can make the person ill.

In the refrigerator, it takes about 24 hours that is, a whole day to defrost a 4 lbs weighed turkey. Similarly, for an eight lbs weighed turkey it takes about 2 days to thaw properly. The turkey is taken out from the freezer to the fridge.

Coldwater is also used to thaw a turkey. It is a quicker method of thawing than in the refrigerator. In cold water, it takes about 30 minutes that is, half an hour to thaw per pound of a turkey. It is required to change the water every 30 minutes to keep the temperature safe because the temperature of water changes frequently.

Another method to thaw a turkey is in the microwave. Extra time is required if using this method. The safe internal temperature to check whether the turkey is properly thawed or not is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. A thermometer should be used to check the temperature. It is best to keep a track of the changes.

While thawing the turkey in the microwave, remove all the outside wrapping. Place the turkey on the microwave-safe dish and keep rotating and flipping it during the thawing process.

The temperature of the thick portions such as the thickest part of the breast and the thickest part of the thighs without touching the bones. If the temperature of these parts shows 165 degrees Fahrenheit means the turkey is properly thawed.

Turkey weightRefrigeratorColdwater
4 lbs1 day2 hours
8 lbs2 day4 hours
12 lbs3 day6 hours
16 lbs4 day8 hours
20 lbs5 days10 hours

Why Does It Take So Long To Thaw A Turkey?

The heat energy is absorbed by the turkey during the thawing process. This heat energy only makes the turkey thaw. The time is required by the turkey to thaw nicely because some of the parts in it are very thick which include parts of the breast and parts of the highs, which are thickest. Hence requires time.

It is very important to check the temperature while thawing to avoid the growth of bacteria and germs. This is because cold water needs to be changed after every 30 minutes.

Thawing a turkey in cold water requires lesser time as compared to thaw it in a refrigerator. Water has the capacity to hold a large amount of heat energy than air. Even if the temperature of the air is higher than water, the heat energy will be more in water.

Thermodynamically, heat is transferred more efficiently in liquid than air. Coldwater is warmer than freezing and is actually the correct and safe way to thaw the turkey or other frozen food products. However, the turkey can also the thawed safely in the refrigerator due to consistent temperature.


A thawed turkey requires about 15 minutes to cook whereas a frozen turkey takes about twenty-two and a half minutes per pound to cook. Cooking directly the turkey from frozen or partially frozen is also safe. Over roasting is a truly safe method to cook a frozen turkey.


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Hi! I'm Nidhi.

Here at the EHL, it's all about delicious, easy recipes for casual entertaining. So come and join me at the beach, relax and enjoy the food.

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