How to thaw a turkey, and when you should start

An expert with the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line shares two methods

Unless you prefer your turkey burnt to a crisp on the outside and frozen solid on the inside, you might want to think about thawing your bird sooner rather than later.

Every year, the experts on the receiving end of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line help to guide America’s home cooks toward a successful Thanksgiving feast. However, as one can imagine, those experts often hear the same questions year after year.

“With Thanksgiving celebrations being smaller this year, we’re receiving lots of calls from first-time cooks asking for advice on how to cook your turkey and when [and] how it should be thawed,” Pam Barnes, a representative from the Talk-Line, told Fox News this week.

“Safely thawing your frozen turkey is one of the most important steps in preparing your Thanksgiving meal,” says Pam Barnes, an expert with the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line.

“Safely thawing your frozen turkey is one of the most important steps in preparing your Thanksgiving meal,” says Pam Barnes, an expert with the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. (iStock)

Luckily, Barnes and her colleagues have answers to all of these questions, and more.

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In fact, Barnes shared two different methods for thawing out a turkey — one which is a bit less labor-intensive, and another that might be a tad quicker, for those with less time. In either case, though, Barnes stresses that safety is the main priority.

“Safely thawing your frozen turkey is one of the most important steps in preparing your Thanksgiving meal,” she says. “While refrigerator thawing is preferred, and the least labor-intensive, it does require more time. On the other hand, cold-water thawing takes less time but requires more attention.”

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No matter which method you choose, the Butterball expert says you should “never thaw a turkey at room temperature” and to instead buy a fresh turkey, if time is really that tight.

So, ready to thaw your bird? Barnes recommends the following methods:

Refrigerator Thawing

  • Thaw turkey breast side up, in an unopened wrapper on a tray in the fridge (40 degrees F or below).
  • Allow at least 1 day of thawing for every 4 lbs of turkey.
  • Keep turkey in original wrapper and place on tray.
  • Use turkey within 4 days after thawing.

Cold-Water Thawing

  • Thaw turkey breast side down, in an unopened wrapper, with enough cold water to cover your turkey completely.
  • Change water every 30 minutes and if turkey cannot be completely covered, rotate every 30 minutes to keep the turkey chilled.
  • Estimate a minimum thawing time of 30 minutes per pound of turkey.

Still need assistance with your Turkey Day preparations? No worries. Barnes and her team expect to answer at least 100,000 calls by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, and at least 15,000 on Thanksgiving alone.

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One thing she can’t do, however, is point you in the direction of a tiny turkey.

“We’re also getting lots of questions on what size turkey people should buy,” Barnes said. “Our advice is don’t be afraid to go big! Leftovers are one of the best parts of the meal and we have tons of delicious recipes.”

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The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line can be reached by calling 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372) or texting 844-877-3456.