How Long Does it Take to Safely Thaw a Turkey?
Like a collection of oddly shaped bowling balls, they lie in wait in your grocer's freezer case. They are turkeys. They're stuffed with their own body parts, wrapped in plastic, and encased in a net. They are frozen. Not just kind of frozen. They are frozen hard like blocks of ice with wings and legs and somehow we're supposed to turn that into a golden brown delicious treat by next Thursday.
A vast majority of Louisiana shoppers will be investing about 20% more of their hard-earned money into purchasing a turkey over the next 48 hours. You see, the weekend before Thanksgiving is the equivalent of "black Friday" for grocery stores. People who never shop are shopping this weekend and they are purchasing an item they usually only purchase once a year, a turkey.
The problem with turkeys is another "T" word. That word is time. It takes a lot of time to cook a turkey. It takes a lot of time to prepare a turkey for cooking if you want it to taste good. And, probably the most important use of time that almost no one uses correctly, is the amount of time it takes to safely thaw your turkey for cooking.
How Long Does it Take to Thaw a 10-12 Pound Turkey?
For the answer to that question, you will need a calendar, not a watch. Yes, we are talking about a process that to safely complete will require days. The United States Department of Agriculture suggests that you thaw your frozen turkey in a refrigerator and allow a day for every four to five pounds of weight.
So, your 10-12 pound bird is going to need at least two days and more likely two days and some change to safely thaw in your 'fridge. That means if you want to put that bird in the oven Thursday morning, it's going to need to be thawing by sometime late in the day on Monday.
Since this is South Louisiana most turkeys on our tables will be larger than 10-12 pounds so that means thawing will need to be done sooner. And, if you bought a bird that's already stuffed and the stuffing is frozen you should plan on an even longer time in the chill chest to thaw.
Why Can't I Thaw My Turkey on the Counter or in Hot Water?
The short answer is you could get very sick and die and so could your guests. Thawing poultry of any kind at room temperature or in hot water is a recipe for disaster. Bacteria that could do your body harm can fester and grow along the outer layers of the turkey should you attempt to thaw at room temperature or in hot water. The temperature the bacteria like is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees which is about where the outer layer of that frozen bird will be for several hours.
Why Can't I Cook My Turkey Frozen?
I guess you could but you're going to have serious issues to consider. First, if the bird is frozen, so are all the "things" that are stuffed inside it. Most commercially produced birds come with a package of "innards" and a turkey neck stuck inside the cavity. Many cooks use those items for gravy, sauces, and flavoring. So, you'd have to fish that sack of giblets out before you carved. Also, cooking frozen meat of various thicknesses would be a nightmare to achieve proper doneness. Namely, you're wings and drumsticks might get burned to a crisp while the breast meat stays cool to the touch and is quite raw.
If You're Frying, Do Not Drop a Frozen Turkey in Hot Oil
You should only do this if you want to meet firemen and nurses because people in both professions will likely be needed as a result of the explosion and fire. Don't believe me? Take a look at this frozen turkey hitting the hot grease.
Seriously, even if you have the fire department standing by don't do this. Take a few minutes, or rather days, and let your turkey thaw the right way. It will taste better and you'll avoid gastric distress for the long holiday weekend.
And since we're on the subject of thawing and you've just discovered your turkey won't fit in your microwave, you should consider this information too.
Don't Ever Put These Things in the Microwave