Thawing a Frozen Turkey | How Long Do You Need?

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Just a reminder! It’s about that time!  Wondering How Long you will need to Thaw Your Frozen Turkey?

It is about time for us to start defrosting those frozen turkeys you got for super cheap or even better FREE.. I loved the free turkey at Giant this year!

Use these guidelines for thawing your turkey.

Thawing in the Fridge? (In the Refrigerator (40 °F or below)

Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds

  • 4 to 12 pounds 1 to 3 days
  • 12 to 16 pounds 3 to 4 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days

Tips – DO NOT UNWRAP TURKEY. Put a tray or something under it so that the juices stay contained. Once thawed it is safe to leave the turkey in the fridge for up to 2 days.

You can also thaw in Cold Water (this isn’t a great method unless you are cooking in the evening)

Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound

  • 4 to 12 pounds 2 to 6 hours
  • 12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
  • 16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours

Make sure you wrap the turkey, do not let any water leak through the wrapping. Put your turkey into the cold water. CHANGE THE WATER EVERY 30 MINUTES.  (very important to keep it from becoming contaminated.) Cook Turkey immediately. DO NOT REFREEZE.

What are your tips for thawing or cooking a Turkey? Share them in the comments!

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  • Thanks for this great tip. My husband and I are attempting to cook our first Thanksgiving turkey tomorrow. It is thawing in a tub of water as I write this. I thought it would take 24 hours. I am glad to see that it will only take up to 6 hours. Phew! I thought it wouldn’t be ready in time to cook tomorrow and be ready for our guests.

  • tammy

    hello can anyone tell me how long it takes to defrost a 40 pound turkey as my father got one for easter and i know it takes about 20hours to cook it but i,m not sure for the defrost so it would be great if i could find out a.s.a.p.
    thank you

  • T

    Thanks so much for this reminder! I haven’t made a turkey in about 5 years and I forgot about the thawing part. lol I made enough room in my fridge this morning and moved Mr. Turkey over. It’s 13lb, so I think it should be ok by Thursday morning.

  • Stephan

    College-turkey-thawing: Frozen turkey, hot water, don’t give a sh** about salmonelas because you are to drunk anyways. just leave the water running for about 2 hours, then put spices on it and then into the oven. Done! Noone got sick! :) We got lucky ;) Haha

    • Stephan

      aaaand, after about 1 hour of hot water rinse, take all the gross stuff out that was frozen before, like the neck and the heart and so on :) haha

      • Stephan

        do not try this at home :) I cook basically every day now and I can’t believe we did this back then…. I just guess we didnt care at all ;)

        • Shannon

          OMG I am peeing my pants over here.

  • Holly

    Yeah, somehow I missed the 3-4 days and I only allowed 2 days for thawing my 17lb bird! Thankfully we just cooked it a little longer and it turned out ok. Thanksgiving dinner at my house tonight!