When should you defrost your Christmas turkey?

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Buying a frozen turkey can often be less stressful than trying to get our hands on a fresh one.

You can grab it nice and early, and don’t have to face a fight in the meat aisles.

But when it comes to Christmas, you need to treat the frozen fowl with caution.

A turkey that isn’t properly defrosted before cooking can contain bacteria which might make you seriously ill – the last thing you want over the Christmas period.

Follow the checklist and guidelines set out by the NHS to make sure it is thawed properly before cooking.

Defrosting checklist:

  1. Work out defrosting time in advance, so you know how much time to allow – it can take at least a couple of days for a large turkey to thaw.
  2. When you start defrosting, take the turkey out of its packaging, put it on a large dish and cover. The dish will hold the liquid that comes out of the thawing turkey.
  3. Remove the giblets and the neck as soon as possible to speed up the thawing process. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw turkey, giblets or any other raw meat.
  4. Before cooking, make sure there aren’t any ice crystals in the cavity. Test the thicker parts of the turkey with a fork to tell whether the meat feels frozen.
  5. Turkey (and any other poultry) is best defrosted in a covered dish at the bottom of the fridge so that it can’t drip onto other foods.
  6. Pour away the liquid that comes out of the turkey as it is defrosting regularly – this stops it overflowing and spreading bacteria. Be careful not to splash the liquid onto work tops, dishes, cloths or other food.
  7. Bear in mind what else you have stored in the fridge. Cooked meats need to be covered and stored higher up.
  8. If the bird is too big for the fridge, put it somewhere out of reach from animals and children where it won’t touch other foods. A cool room, shed or garage are all good places.
  9. If you’re not using the fridge, watch out for sudden changes in room temperature, as they could prevent the turkey from thawing evenly.

Roast turkey is on the menu at Christmas

Defrosting times

To work out the defrosting time for your turkey, check the packaging for any guidance first.

If there aren’t any defrosting instructions, use the following times to work out roughly how long it will take to thaw your turkey.

  • In a fridge at 4ºC (39ºF), allow about 10 to 12 hours per kg, but remember that not all fridges will be this temperature
  • In a cool room (below 17.5ºC, 64ºF), allow approximately three to four hours per kg, or longer if the room is particularly cold
  • At room temperature (about 20ºC, 68ºF) allow approximately two hours per kg

For more information and further advice visit the NHS web page here.



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