The short answer is, not really. Of course, you can eat a turkey that has been thawed on a counter, and generations of us have grown up eating turkeys that sat out all night, but it’s not what modern food scientists recommend.
The USDA recommends thawing your turkey in the refrigerator. This is the safest method because the turkey will thaw at a consistent, safe temperature. This method takes some time, so allow one day for each 4 – 5 pounds of weight. If your turkey weighs 16 pounds, it will take about four days to thaw.
The fastest way to thaw a turkey
By submerging it in ice water, even a 24-pound bird can be defrosted in just 12 hours (Thermoworks says to count on about 8 hours for a 15-pounder). There are a couple of ways to go about this: First, you could thaw the turkey in your sink.
When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours of defrosting time for every 4 to 5 pounds of bird, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So, if the turkey weighs 4 to 12 pounds, plan for it to defrost in the fridge for one to three days.
Never thaw at room temperature. To thaw your turkey in the refrigerator: … Leave turkey in your refrigerator until fully thawed. It may be kept in the fridge up to 4 days after thawing before cooking, but the sooner you cook it, the better for freshness—and so you can reclaim some space in your fridge.
The Best Method: How to Defrost a Turkey in the Fridge
The best way to thaw a turkey is to place it in the refrigerator (set to 37°F [3°C]) on a sheet pan with the breast side up. Your turkey will thaw gently and evenly.
Here’s the calculation: plan on 24 hours of fridge thawing for every 5 pounds of frozen turkey (for example: budget 4 full days of thawing in the fridge for a 20-pound turkey). Keep the turkey wrapped, and occasionally check to see if the baking sheet or roasting pan needs to be drained.
Thawing in the refrigerator is the ONLY recommended way to defrost a frozen turkey. For it to work, however, you’ll need plenty of time: 24 hours of defrosting time for every 4 to 5 pounds of bird. A large turkey, say, 15 to 20 pounds, will need to spend 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Thaw time in the fridge requires about 24 hours for every 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at about 40 degrees F (5 degrees C). Thaw time in cold water requires about 30 minutes per pound in cold water, refreshed every 30 minutes.
To thaw a 15-pound bird, you’ll need about a day of thawing in the fridge for every four to five pounds. In other words, plan on at least three to four days for defrosting. If the turkey is closer to 16 pounds, give the bird at least four days to be safe.
The simplest way to figure out turkey roasting times is to calculate 13 minutes per pound at 350°F for an unstuffed turkey (that’s about 3 hours for a 12- to 14-lb. turkey), or 15 minutes per pound for a stuffed turkey.
A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.
According to the Butterball Turkey Talk Line, you can keep a turkey stored in the freezer up to two years and it’s still safe to cook. … For the best quality, the USDA recommends using the frozen turkey within the first year of storage.
If There’s No Time to Thaw
If you’re up against the clock and have no time left for even the “quick” cold-water thaw, then just cook the turkey as it is. It’s perfectly safe to cook a frozen or partially frozen turkey — you just need to allow some extra cooking time.
According to the experts, you should thaw a turkey in a refrigerator set to 40°F or below for about 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds. If your bird weighs more than 20 pounds, you should start thawing in the fridge on Friday, Nov. 20.
When the turkey has partially defrosted, you can unwrap it and remove the giblet bag from the cavity. … According to the USDA, a 4- to 12-pound turkey will take two to six hours to defrost; a 12- to 16-pound turkey six to eight hours; a 16- to 20-pound turkey eight to 10 hours and a 20- to 24-pound turkey 10 to 12 hours.
Changing of the water is done to prevent possible bacteria growth. Once the turkey is defrosted in water, it must be cooked immediately.
If your turkey weighs 16 pounds, for instance, it will take about four days to thaw in the refrigerator. Once thawed, you can safely keep the uncooked turkey in the refrigerator for another two days, so you should start thawing it up to six days before you intend to eat it.
“The skin or surface of spoiled turkey meat is usually slimy, and the meat itself smells like rotten eggs or sulfur. These characteristics are due to microbial spoilage.” Spoilage might be expected if a turkey has been left in the refrigerator for a week or longer or left to thaw in the garage for a few hours.
Leave the ground turkey in the fridge for up to a day until it thaws. The time the turkey takes to thaw will vary based on the temperature of your refrigerator. Even 1 lb (0.45 kg) of ground turkey will take 12-24 hours to thaw.
Answer: Yes — you can roast a frozen turkey in the oven without defrosting it first, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You shouldn’t grill, smoke, deep-fry or microwave a frozen turkey. … Finally, to determine if your cooked turkey is safe to eat, be sure to use a food thermometer and check the turkey often.
Roast the turkey uncovered at a temperature ranging from 325°F to 350°F. Higher temperatures may cause the meat to dry out, but this is preferable to temperatures that are too low which may not allow the interior of the turkey to cook to a safe temperature.
Add water to the roasting pan to keep the turkey from drying out. Grandma always added water to the bottom of the roasting pan, at the start of the cooking. This keeps the bird from drying out.
Q: Should I roast the bird covered or uncovered? A: The Butterball folks recommend cooking the turkey uncovered in a roasting pan. … If you put foil on the breast, remove it about 30-45 minutes before the turkey is done to allow the breast to brown.
Answer: It is safe to eat a turkey that has been kept in the freezer for a year – or even for several years. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture points out, foods that are kept constantly frozen at 0°F or lower will keep safe indefinitely.
Thawing Frozen Turkey Breast in the Refrigerator
A 6 or 7-pound turkey breast will take about 1 1/2 days (36 hours) to thaw completely.
The issue with keeping a fresh, raw turkey in your refrigerator for more than a couple of days isn’t the pathogens that cause food poisoning, says Ben Chapman, the N.C. State University food-safety extension specialist. The problem is spoiled meat. “You’re going to get off-flavors, off-smells,” he says.
There are absolutely no quality differences between fresh and frozen turkeys. … Once thawed, the meat of a frozen turkey is virtually as fresh as the day it was packaged. Fresh turkeys are chilled after packaging, rather than frozen.
Good news: turkey meat is definitely freeze-able. You’ll need to remove the meat from the bones first. Slicing the meat will also help it to defrost evenly. You can eat the turkey with gravy as usual, but leftover turkey is quite versatile: it makes a great filling for casseroles, tacos and sandwiches.
How to tell if cooked turkey is bad? The best way is to smell and look at the turkey: signs of bad turkey are a sour smell and a slimy texture to the cooked turkey; discard any turkey with an off smell or appearance, do not taste the turkey first.
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