How To Thaw a Frozen Turkey

Pail or Refrigerator?

Raw frozen turkey

For great recipe ideas that will help you cook a delicious turkey dinner every time, I recommend you check out The Perfect Turkey Dinner Guide.  However, you can't cook your turkey until it's been thawed!  This article will teach you how to do just that.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Christmas is coming faster than you think. You are getting stressed out by the idea of serving the turkey dinner since it is your turn to welcome your family for that special occasion. Every time you shop in a grocery store, you are facing the outrageous prices of fresh turkey compared to the more reasonable prices of frozen turkeys. You budget can only stretch so far and as time passes by you are facing the option of a frozen turkey, which by the way, you have no clue how to thaw out safely. How do you do it so you won't end up dealing with a bacterial invasion? Well, just follow these steps!

There are two ways to thaw a turkey that are popular: in a pail or in the refrigerator. Both ways have some advantages and inconveniences. The decision is yours as both time and your hectic schedule are the main elements that will affect your final selection.

The Pail Thawing Process:

  1. Time to go shopping! Shopping for a frozen turkey involves two different types of stores: a grocery store and a hardware store. What does a hardware get involved in this process? Simple, you need a large white pail in which you will thaw out your turkey. You also need a large brick. The grocery store of course is where you will purchase your turkey.
  2. Clean them before using them. Wash your pail and the brick with soap and water. Then rinse them with clear water thoroughly. After all, you don't know how many hands touched them and how long they have been collecting dust. It doesn't matter if they do not come directly in contact with the turkey as it remains in its original wrapping, there always a possibility that the wrapping could have a hole or a cut.
  3. Let the thawing process begin! Put the pail in the bathtub and fill it up with cold water. It makes sense to put it in the bathtub for two reasons. First, you have a direct access to cold water with lifting up a large pail and risking a huge mess. Second, if the water drips out of the pail, the bathtub can drain the excess water, which is a bit messier with the floor. Add the turkey and top it off with the brick. It will prevent it from floating and not thawing properly.
  4. How long is the thawing process? Look at the label on your turkey prior to putting it into the pail. Calculate the thawing time by following this rule: it takes approximately 1 hour to thaw 2 lbs of meat. So if you have a 14 lbs turkey, it should take approximately 7 hours to thaw out. I say approximately as it may sometimes require some extra time as the temperature of the water may vary each time and that if you must converse from metric measurements to the imperial one, you may loose some precision into the calculations.
  5. Don't forget this important step! Don't forget to empty out the pail and refill it with cold water every 30 minutes. It is a crucial step as it will keep the turkey's temperature low enough to deter bacteria and prevent their invasion. Forget this step and you may as well throw the turkey away as cooking and eating it would be risky to you health. Please note that even if there is less than three hours to thaw out the turkey, don't stop the refill process. So if the process should take 7 hours, still continue to change the water every 30 minutes.

The Refrigerator Thawing Process:

  1. Keep it under wrap! Following the purchase of a frozen turkey, you decide to try the refrigerator thawing process as you are not in a hurry. When you are ready to thaw it out, remove it from the freezer. Use a good-size pan that will fit the size of the turkey. It should be a shallow pan. This pan will collect the excess water resulting from the thawing process and preventing a mess in your refrigerator.
  2. Cool and bacteria-free! Put the turkey in the pan and place it on a sturdy shelf in the refrigerator. The cool temperature of the refrigerator will ensure that the turkey's temperature will not go beyond 40 degrees Fahrenheit which would breed bacteria. A bacterial invasion could result in a serious illness.
  3. Time is of the essence! The refrigerator thawing process requires 24 hours for every 5 lbs of meat. 15 lbs should require a period of about 72 hours to fully thaw out. Do not remove a turkey from the refrigerator until fully thawed out. Any interruption would affect the timing of the thawing process and add to it.

Pros of the Pail Process:

  • This thawing process is faster than the refrigerator thawing process. This would benefit someone who ends up with serving a turkey dinner the next day.
  • It leaves the shelves of your refrigerator free to store other food items. It is more practical as you have more space for anything else.
  • It is mess-free as the turkey is fully wrapped and that any dripping water goes down the drain instead of the bottom of your fridge if you forget to empty the pan for a while.

Cons of the Pail Process:

  • You can't afford to forget about getting rid of the cold water and refilling the pail every 30 minutes. Otherwise, you may as well throw away your turkey as it could breed bacteria that would make you really sick.
  • Your bathtub is occupied for a long period of time, which could be frustrating if you were hoping for a hot, relaxing bubble bath.
  • Emptying out the pail could be hard on your back as it is quite heavy. If you have problems with your back, this may not be the best option for you.

Pros of the Refrigerator Process:

  • You do not have to worry about forgetting to empty the pail out and refill it with cold water every 30 minutes to avoid a bacterial invasion. The temperature of the refrigerator is constant.
  • It leaves your bathtub free so you can enjoy a bubble bath or give the kids a bath without having to worry about the thawing process of your turkey.
  • It is not as hard on your back as you do not need to empty a pail full of water. It is not as heavy and awkward. This way, it will prevent backaches and injuries.

Cons of the Refrigerator Process:

  • The thawing process takes a long time. If you are in a hurry, it is not the best selection for you! Also, the time it takes to thaw out may limit you in time allowed to prepare the remainder of the festivities.
  • Put the turkey in the refrigerator and you may need to store the rest of the food elsewhere as it takes a lot of room.
  • It is not mess-free as the excess of water may overflow in the pan and end up in the bottom of the refrigerator.

As you can see, both methods have their pros and cons. Depending on which one meets your needs, your decision may differ. As long as you follow safety guidelines, both are quite effective and provide the desired result: a thawed out turkey without the bacteria. Keep in mind that in case of a blackout, you can always use the pail thawing process as an alternative.


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