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It’s almost time for Thanksgiving. The turkey, the star of the show, comes bearing responsibility. It’s all about timing. In order to complete your feast, make sure you leave enough time to properly defrost your bird.

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 two ways to properly defrost a turkey. 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

Thawing your turkey using the refrigerator method will be the least labor-intensive, but will require more time.

According to Butterball, if you have purchased a frozen whole turkey or turkey breasts these need to be thawed before cooking.

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

Cold Water Method

The cold water method will take less time to defrost, so if you’re late to the game, this may be the option for you. However, this way will require more attention to the turkey.

Follow these instructions provided by Butterball:

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

How long does it take 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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