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How to Thaw Turkey Safely

In the refrigerator : Turkeys can be thawed using one of three methods, but the safest, most foolproof, and most recommended is to thaw them in the refrigerator. In addition to being the safest method, this will also result in the best finished product.

Refrigerator Turkey Thawing Time (40 degrees F)
Turkey Weight Days to Allow for Thawing Turkey
8 to 12 pounds 2 to 2.5 days
12 to 16 pounds 2.5 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days

The Cold Water Method: If planning fell short, and you need to thaw the turkey more quickly, use the cold water method.

COLD Water Turkey Thawing Time
Turkey Weight Hours to Allow for Thawing Turkey
8 to 12 pounds 4 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours

The Microwave Method: Even though thawing can be safely done in the microwave, it is the least desired method for producing a good-quality finished product, and the turkey must be roasted immediately after thawing.

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