Thawing a turkey can be approached two ways. Ideally, you’d want to thaw your bird in a fridge set to 37°F, but that takes days. If it’s Thanksgiving morning and your bird is still frozen, your options are limited.
Cold Water Thawing
Fill your sink, or large bucket with cold water. Of course, make sure the sink is thoroughly cleaned before you start the process. Leave the turkey in its original packaging and completely submerge it in your kitchen sink. Fill a zip-lock bag with ice and place over the turkey to ensure it stays submerged. It’s very important that you keep the temperature of the water below 41°F. You may have to add ice to the water frequently to maintain this water temperature.
A probe style cooking alarm thermometer is handy for this process because it can be set to alert you whenever the water breaches the 41°F ceiling.
Using this method, you can anticipate about 30 minutes for every pound of turkey. A 15 pound bird needs nearly 8 hours – so you’d better get busy!
What’s the Difference?
If you’re asking yourself how a turkey thaws faster in 41°F water when the fridge is only a few degrees lower (37°F), consider that water has a molecular density much greater than air. The transfer of heat from the molecule-dense water to the frozen turkey happens much faster, which in turn heats up the bird faster.