How to Safely Defrost a Turkey

How to Safely Defrost a Turkey

Nov 17, 2016

It's About Turkey Time!!

raw turkey.jpg

That means you need to start planning ahead for a few things before the big meal & the “Big Turkey Thaw.” 

One of the most important parts of the Thanksgiving Meal is of course the Turkey.  First you need to know how many people you will be serving in order to know what size of turkey to buy. 

Once you know the size of the turkey that will determine how long it will take to defrost or thaw out before cooking!

Raw or cooked meat, poultry or egg products, as any perishable foods, must be kept at a safe temperature during “the big thaw.”

They are safe indefinitely while frozen. However, as soon as they begin to thaw and become warmer than 40 °F, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply.

Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.

Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 and 140 °F – temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.

When thawing frozen food, it’s best to plan ahead and thaw in the refrigerator where it will remain at a safe, constant temperature – at 40 °F or below.

There are 3 safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave.

I will just cover the “Refrigerator Thawing Method,” but if you would like to thaw your Turkey with the other two methods you can go to this site for more information:

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/poultry-preparation/turkey-basics-safe-thawing/CT_Index

Refrigerator Thawing

Planning ahead is the key to this method because of the lengthy time involved. A large frozen item like a turkey requires at least a day (24 hours) for every 5 pounds of weight.

Estimated Refrigerator Thawing Times:

  • 4 to 12 LB Turkey – 1 to 3 days
  • 12 to 16 LB Turkey – 3 to 4 days
  • 16 to 20 LB Turkey – 4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 LB Turkey – 5 to 6 days

Even small amounts of frozen food— such as a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts — require a full day to thaw. When thawing foods in the refrigerator, there are variables to take into account.

Some areas of the fridge may keep food colder than other areas. Food will take longer to thaw in a refrigerator set at 35 ºF than one set at 40 ºF.

After thawing in the refrigerator, your turkey should remain safe and good quality for an additional day or two before cooking.

Red meat cuts (such as beef, pork or lamb roasts, chops and steaks) 3 to 5 days.

Food thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality.

Cooking Without Thawing

When there is not enough time to thaw frozen foods, or you’re simply in a hurry, just remember it is safe to cook foods from the frozen state. 

However, the cooking will take approximately 50% longer than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh meat and poultry.

Information Courtesy of United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service

Melanie Kluzek, Registered Dietitian for County Market



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