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Brittany Michael

Let's talk turkey!

Turkeys are one of the holiday's most popular food items, but thawing this holiday bird must be done carefully and correctly to prevent food-borne illnesses.

In The Refrigerator

  • Thaw the turkey in its original wrap on a tray placed in the bottom section of the refrigerator, 40 degrees F or below.

  • Allow about 24 hours of defrost time for every 5 pounds of turkey. Example: a 20 pound turkey will take 4 to 5 days to thaw.

  • Do not thaw on the counter. This puts the turkey in the Temperature Danger Zone where bacteria grows and makes people sick


Lbs Days
4-12 1-3
12-16 3-4

In Cold Water

  • Submerge the bird in its wrapper in a deep sink of cold water and change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold.

  • Allow 30 minutes per pound to defrost a turkey in cold water. Do not use warm or hot water.

Lbs              Hours
8-12 4-6
12-16 6-8

Microwave Thawing

  • Microwave thawing is another option. Make sure your microwave oven is large enough to hold the turkey especially if the oven has a rotating tray.

  • Check manufacturer's instructions for the size turkey that will fit into your oven.

  • Caution: Microwave defrosting is irregular, creating hot spots, which may encourage bacterial growth. Cook the turkey immediately after defrosting. Do not store in the refrigerator for cooking later.

Do not let food sit out for more than 2 hours

  • Check the temperature of your food using a thermometer

  • If hot foods are below 135 degrees F after 4 hours then discard

  • If cold foods are above 70 degrees F after 6 hours then discard

  • Separate the leftover food into smaller containers and refrigerate immediately

Reheat stuffing and turkey products to 165 degrees F



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Author - Brittany Michael Author - Karen Poff Author - Karen Ridings Family & Human Development Family Financial Management Food, Nutrition, Health

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