Properly thawing your turkey is key to a successful Thanksgiving turkey dinner. We recommend two methods to properly thaw your turkey: the fridge method and the ice water bath method. Here, we break these two methods down into simple steps. However, to better understand these processes more in-depth, please refer to Safely Thawing Your Turkey.
Method 1: How to Thaw a Turkey in the Fridge:
Step 1: Put the wrapped frozen turkey breast-side UP on a sheet pan or tray (to contain any dripping juice).
Step 2: Place on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, set to 37ºF.
Step 3: Allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of frozen turkey to completely thaw.
Step 4: Verify that the turkey is properly thawed with a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer, like the Thermapen® Mk4. Look for temperatures no cooler than 30ºF and no higher than 40ºF.
Method 2: How to Thaw a Turkey in an Ice Water Bath:
Step 1: Fill cooler or bucket with cold water and ice *Throughout this method of thawing you will want to make sure the water temperature stays below the “danger zone” of 40ºF or above. Use an alarm thermometer like the ChefAlarm® that will beep when the temperature reaches 40°F to help you monitor the water temperature. Remove water and add ice to lower the water temperature if it gets too warm.
Step 2: Place the unopened turkey (it must be airtight wrapping) breast-side DOWN in the cooler or bucket.
Step 3: Leave the turkey in the bucket of cold ice water (below 40ºF) until the turkey is thawed. Expect about 30 minutes per pound.
Step 4: Every 30 minutes, check the water temperature to make sure it is not above 40ºF. Remove water and add ice as needed.
Step 5: Verify, with an instant-read thermometer like the Thermapen Mk4, that the turkey is properly thawed. Look for temperatures no cooler than 30ºF and no higher than 40ºF.
Method 1, thawing the turkey in the refrigerator, will take less monitoring than thawing in a cold water bath but it does take more time. If you find yourself without the needed amount of time to thaw in the fridge, then a cold water bath can work as well. With either method, make sure to use accurate and reliable thermometers, like the Thermapen Mk4 and ChefAlarm, to monitor the thawing process. This will set you up for a more consistent cook for your Thanksgiving turkey!
More on Thawing and Cooking Turkey