Long before Thanksgiving dinner is served, and your extended family can start arguing about politics, the person tasked with cooking the turkey is faced with a difficult dilemma: Just how in the heck does one defrost this thing?
Granted, thawing a turkey seems like a fairly straightforward process. But if that were truly the case, “How do I thaw a turkey” wouldn’t be the most-asked question of the Butterball Turkey Talk Line (and year after year, it definitely is).
With that in mind, we asked Nicole Johnson, an expert at Butterball’s Talk Line, for a definitive guide to thawing your bird before the big day. And according to her, there’s really only two ways to go about it:
If you have the space and time to do it, Johnson says the “first preferred method” is refrigerator thawing, which is exactly what it sounds like. Simply remove your wrapped turkey from the freezer, plop it on a tray breast-side up, and jam it into a refrigerator set to 40 degrees or below.
Just make sure to be patient; Johnson says that for every four pounds of turkey, you should allow 1 day of thawing. In other words, a 12-pound turkey will take three days to thaw in the refrigerator, while a 16-pounder will take four, and a 20-pounder will take five, etc.
For those of you who are tight on time, Johnson’s “second preferred method” is cold-water thawing. This method involves creating a cold-water bath in a clean sink, then placing the still-wrapped turkey breast-side down so it’s submerged in the water. Then, every 30 minutes thereafter, you change the water and rotate the turkey (breast-side down for the first 30, breast-side up for the next, and so on) until sufficiently thawed. According to Johnson, this should take only around 30 minutes per pound, meaning a 10-pound turkey would take five hours, a 12-pound only six, etc.
And once the turkey has thawed, make sure it stays refrigerated until it’s time to cook: A thawed turkey can be kept for up to 4 days in the refrigerator, Butterball says, but should never be kept at room temperature, lest bacteria begin to grow.
Now, all that’s left to do is cook the thing and start worrying about dessert. Tell us, have you considered a piecaken?