According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, there are proper ways to thaw a frozen turkey without exposing you or your guests to unnecessary bacteria. They suggest 3 methods: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.
- Their preferred method is to safely and slowly thaw the turkey in the refrigerator. Plan 1 day for every 5 pounds.
- If you decide to use cold water, they recommend sealing the turkey in an air-tight or leak-proof bag. Submerge it in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes.
- If defrosting the turkey in a microwave, proceed to cook it right away. This is because parts of the bird will inevitably cook during the defrost process.
You should never thaw turkey on a counter, as it’s a risk for contamination. And, always be mindful of handling uncooked meat.
The USDA also suggests that the maximum time cooked turkey should be stored in the refrigerator as leftovers (provided it didn’t sit out on the table for hours and hours) is 3-4 days. In the freezer, storing for up to 4 months is OK. If you’re going to reheat meat, don’t just warm it. Heat until it’s hot in order to kill off any bacteria.
Here is a link to the USDA Poultry Preparation Fact Sheet. It’s pretty helpful, actually. I have a 22lb turkey so I’ll take it out of the freezer on Monday to thaw it in the refrigerator.
How do you thaw your turkey? I originally researched this topic as one year our turkey was still frozen on the inside after thawing it for several days. Turned out, we should have started a day earlier.
*Photo credit: istockphoto/evgenyb