How to safely thaw a turkey

Robert Finlin, Public Health Inspector

A frozen turkey is safe. As soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that are present before freezing will begin to grow.  Thawing a turkey unsafely can increase your chances of getting sick. You should never thaw on the counter, in the garage, on the back porch, in a brown paper bag or even using a dishwasher. Really! Those methods are unsafe. There are Only 3 safe ways to defrost a turkey and keep you and your family safe. The safe thawing methods are:

  1. In the refrigerator
  2. In cold water or
  3. In a microwave oven

Refrigerator Thawing (Recommended)

This is the safest method because the turkey will thaw at a consistent, safe temperature. This does take some time, so allow one day per 2 kilograms (4.5 pounds). If your turkey weighs between 8 – 10 kilograms, you will need to allow about 5 days for thawing. Once thawed, the turkey is safe for another 1 – 2 days in the fridge before cooking.

Cold Water Thawing

For the cold water method, leave the turkey in its original wrapping and submerge in a sink full of cold running water. It is important that the water be cold, so that the turkey stays at a safe temperature. With this method, allow 30 minutes of defrosting time per 0.45 kilograms (1 pound). So an 8 -10 kilogram turkey will take about 10 hours to thaw using this method. Once the turkey is thawed, cook it immediately.

Microwave Thawing

Before you commit to thawing your turkey in a microwave oven, check your owner’s manual for: the size of turkey that will fit in it; the minutes of cooking time per kilogram/pound; and the power level to use when thawing a turkey. Remove all outside wrapping and place the turkey on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak. Use the defrost function based on weight. As a general guideline, allow 6 minutes per 0.45 kilograms (1 pound) when thawing the turkey in the microwave. Be sure to rotate several times, and even flip it over during the thawing process.

If the turkey starts to actually cook instead of defrost, let it rest for 5 minutes or so before you resume thawing. Once the turkey has thawed, cook it immediately

Thaw your turkey safely and keep you and your family healthy.

For more information contact CK Public Health at 519.352.7270.

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