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On top of peeling potatoes, making cornbread, preparing the stuffing, and chopping vegetables, there is an essential job that must be done. Cooking the turkey, especially for a large group of people, can be a tricky task. Knowing how and when to defrost your turkey is vital.

If we’re being honest, Tom is the star of the show. What is a Thanksgiving dinner without the bird? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you prepare and cook a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner.

How to Defrost a Turkey

According to Butterball, there are 2 ways to properly defrost a turkey.

  • Refrigerator
    • least labor-intensive, but requires more time.
  • Cold water
    • takes less time, but more attention

Regardless of which method you choose, never thaw a turkey at room temperature. Following proper directions will make sure that you have an edible dinner and ditch the possibility of becoming ill.

Refrigerator Method

If you are choosing to use the refrigerator route for thawing then you will want to follow these steps. If you have purchased a frozen whole turkey or turkey breasts these need to be thawed before cooking.

Butterball provides the following tips:

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

Cold Water Method

  • 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 lb of turkey.

How long to thaw?

Refrigerator Method

Instructions for thawing a turkey in the refrigerator Credit: Emma Widmar

Cold Water Method

Instructions for thawing a turkey via the cold water method

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