How Long Does It Take To Defrost A Turkey In The Fridge?

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Opting for a frozen turkey is the right choice around Christmas or Thanksgiving. This means you have a ready-made turkey at home, and you don’t have to wallow around in search of buying a turkey when you start your celebrations.

defrosted turkey in the kitchen

You need to be quite wary about how to defrost a turkey around this time of the year. Defrosting a large turkey is a herculean task as every part of the meat should be thawed equally and proportionally to be rehashed again.

So defrosting a turkey has many options, varying according to the time, space, and size of the bird meat.

 Turkey is usually defrosted in the fridge, which is considered the best method of thawing it. Although there are some other significant means by which we can defrost a turkey easily.

Defrosting a turkey takes about 24 hours in the fridge fully. However, every 2 kg of whole meat would need that time.

Whole meat would weigh around 5 to 6 kg. Hence you can calculate the time to thaw whole turkey meat based on how heavy it is.

Some alternative methods, like using cold water or thawing it in the kitchen, can also help if you are short on time and need it immediately.

However, defrosting it in the fridge is considered the best method since it will maintain an even temperature throughout all its pieces.

How To Defrost A Turkey Safely?

thawed turkey

Defrosting the turkey involves some scrupulous efforts for the kind of measures you need to take to thaw it carefully. The defrosted turkey has to be fresh, and at the same time, it should contaminate the neighboring meats in its vicinity.

1. Avoid Any Contamination

When you are handling the turkey, it is important that your hand has been cleaned and sanitized before you even touch it. The containers or appliances that come in contact with the turkey have to be cleaned.

The juices or bacteria that come out of the turkey are vulnerable enough to attract anything that comes close to the meat. Also, the juices and bacteria found on the turkey could easily get attached to other food items in the vicinity.

Hence you need to be careful that other food items in the vicinity should not get in touch with the turkey. Especially, the cooked food nearby has to be kept away from the thawed turkey exclusively.

This will, in turn, keep the turkey safe and not pollute the environment as well.

2. Packaging

When you buy the turkey, you must ensure that the packaging is intact and tight. It has to be checked for tears and leaks, which could potentially spoil the meat sooner than you think.

Sometimes the sell-by date would not even matter as it would already be exposed to external air without proper packaging.

3. Temperature

The safest temperature to thaw a turkey is below 10C. Nothing more than that is admissible to defrost a turkey. It must be constantly thawed at that temperature to be evenly defrosted proportionally.

4. Refreeze

Refreezing the defrosted turkey is not a good idea. Thawing a turkey already eliminates all the extra juices and layers of microbes. Freezing it again would spoil the turkey sooner.

Steps To Prepare And Defrost The Turkey

raw turkey

The steps that are involved in defrosting a turkey are quite significant to be followed diligently. They dictate the longevity of the shelf life of the turkey to a large extent.

Preparing the turkey to defrost makes it very eligible for all defrosting methods that work effectively on the turkey without fail. Let us see what the preparations are to thaw a turkey.

1. Keep It Sealed

Unless you are going to defrost a turkey in the microwave, the packaging need not be removed even a little bit.

If you are going to microwave and defrost the turkey sooner, remove the package and all the plastic bags or covers wrapped around it. 

If it is going to be defrosted in the fridge, the package can stay intact. It has to be just removed from the freezer.

2. How To Defrost

The turkey stays in the package and is not taken out. It is wrapped in the covers and placed above a roasting tin to be kept in the fridge.

Just free some space in the fridge and remove all the other ingredients that might hinder the space of the turkey. This will defrost the turkey slowly and steadily until it is ready to be rehashed or reheated.

3. Temperature

The temperature of the fridge is set to 4C and not more than that. This makes it stay at a lower temperature for a long time. It would even out the temperature on all parts of the thawed turkey, making it equally defrosted.

4. Time To Get Defrosted

The size of the turkey is directly proportional to how long it takes to defrost. Whole bird meat is about 5 to 6 kg in weight. It would take 24 hours for 2kg of turkey meat to defrost.

Hence 3 whole days is the time it takes to defrost a whole turkey. If you have cut pieces of turkey to be thawed, then dividing it as 2kg of meat would do the needful.

Alternative Methods To Defrost A Turkey

There are alternative ways to defrost a turkey other than keeping it in the fridge. This can happen only if the outdoor temperature does not exceed 10 C.

It can be packaged in a sealed box, with plastic covers, and even in a tray. Then the turkey is placed in a garage, garden, or even in the car where the temperature can really hit below 10 C.

Other means of defrosting turkey are keeping it at room temperature, placing it in cold water, or microwaving it for instant need. Let us quickly see the steps needed for each alternative method and try to get some cues.

Defrosting Turkey At Room Temperature

Defrosting turkey at room temperature

Here is all about how you can defrost your turkey at room temperature. Keep reading to find all about it!

How To Defrost A Turkey At Room Temperature? 

This method can be followed only if you are going to cook the turkey as soon as it is defrosted. It is placed on a baking tray or a roasting tin and kept in one cool corner of the kitchen where there is no interference from any electrical appliances nearby.


It has to be left in the same spot for about a day without any disturbance. If there are any fluctuations in the kitchen’s temperature, then it is advisable to move it to a colder region immediately. 


This is a very easy way of defrosting, which does not need any further laborious efforts as long as you have a perfect tray and the turkey. Just keep a nominal check on the turkey to validate if it has passed the defrosting stage. 


This is not a very safe way of defrosting as the proximity to germs and microbes this way becomes easier and more accessible. If the kitchen gets warmer, the turkey has to be immediately shifted to another possible cold place where breeding bacteria is impossible.

Defrosting In A Cold Water

defrosting turkey in cold water

Here is all about how you can defrost your turkey while keeping it in cold water. Keep reading to find all about it!

How To Defrost A Turkey In Cold Water?

Immerse the turkey in a cup of cold water with its package on. Make sure the package completely seals the meat without any leaks. Make sure the water remains cold; if not, it has to be replaced immediately.

If the surface of the meat touches the water, the juices would contaminate the water and render it unusable.


It takes 1 hour for every 1 kg of turkey to get defrosted. This means that the turkey is divided or cut into 1 kg worth of its weight. The piece is then placed in cold water for an hour. The whole meat is then defrosted this whole way until all the pieces get their due.


This is another quick and effective way of defrosting a turkey without much ado. It keeps its freshness until the water is cold and can be used as the whole piece is defrosted.


The efforts taken to keep changing the cold water every half an hour are quite laborious. A constant tab on the temperature of the water is kept, and whenever it feels like there is a drop, it has to be changed.

The packaging also is supposed to be intact without any leakage.

Defrosting In A Microwave

defrosting a turkey in microwave

Here is all about how you can defrost your turkey using a microwave. Keep reading to find all about it!

How To Defrost A Turkey In A Microwave?

The whole turkey has to be checked to see if it will fit into the microwave. Otherwise, it has to be molded, sliced, or shaped to fit inside the microwave.

The packaging and all the covers need to be removed. It has to be kept in the defrost mode for 30 minutes. A simple check on the turkey will determine if you need to continue this effort. Another 5 minutes for its burst will have defrosted completely.


Depending on size and quality, it takes 30 minutes and more than that. It could also take up an hour as repeated iterations of defrosting need to be done. 


This is a quick way of defrosting a turkey. This is the best step forward if you need to serve a bunch of unwelcome guests. If you have small pieces of leftover turkey, the process will be completed sooner than you think.


It will be easier to do this if the turkey is smaller in size. A bigger turkey must be kept in the microwave repeatedly until it is fully defrosted. 

Ways To Check Whether It Is Fully Defrosted

defrosted turkey

There are ways by which you can identify whether the turkey is fully defrosted. First, it must be removed from the packaging before it can be validated as being fully defrosted. 

1. Touch

Remove all the plastic covers from the turkey. Touch the cavity and check to see if it is warm. Touch the breast bone around the cavity and also validate if it is not frozen. The whole meat should be slightly tepid for your touch, and softness must rein in the layer.

2. Flexibility

Move the legs and wings to check if it is rigid. If it does not move and stiffens up tightly, then it has to defrost again.

3. Temperature

The turkey’s temperature is checked in the dense part of the meat. If it is below 1c, it has to be defrosted further without any doubt.

How To Tell If Thawed Turkey Is Spoiled?

thaw a turkey

Thawed turkey is prone to spoilage, without a doubt. It would be no different from a spoiled raw turkey with signs like the smell, color, and texture going for a change. The indication would be fairly discernible as mere touch or odor would inform us of its spoilage.

1. Smell

The spoiled thawed turkey would emanate a rancid odor with a notorious pungent smell. The smell could also be so repulsive and also not very conspicuous. If you take a whiff, it would be clear that it has gone bad.

2. Color

The color of the thawed turkey would have changed. The pink hue would have faded out, or it could have white or gray patches that get interspersed in the meat-like spots. Any outright change in color is a direct indication of it turning bad.

3. Texture

A thawed turkey would be soft and tender with some tepid surface. However, a spoiled thawed turkey would be runny in texture with no glossy coating that it had before. The presence of bacteria would be so visible that it has to be discarded immediately.

How To Retain Its Quality?

If you have to retain the quality of the thawed turkey, the below steps would help a great deal. There are some steps to be followed diligently that may help retain its quality and as a result its shelf life as well.

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly before handling the turkey.
  2. Keep the utensils and plates clean.
  3. Serve the turkey in clean platter.
  4. Buy the turkey 1 or 2 days you are going to cook it.
  5. Keep it in the fridge until you are going to cook it and let the juices leak only on the pan you are storing it.
  6. Keep it in the freezer until you are ready to thaw it. Once you have taken it, be prepared to cook it immediately. 

How To Restore The Thawed Turkey?

A thawed turkey is cooked with an immediate effect without any delay. Storing the thawed turkey is an unnecessary complication that can be avoided at best. A thawed turkey can be restored in the fridge for 1 or 2 additional days.  

However, it should be cooked within the span of 2 days and not more than that. It could get spoiled if left stored in the fridge for a long time.

How To Use Thawed Turkey?

thawed turkey

The leftover turkey can be reheated or cooked for many recipes. It can be heated in the oven or deep-roasted with spicing that goes with it to make it extremely delicious. Thawed turkey contributes to many good recipes that can be binged upon.


Thawing a turkey is a process that involves some detailed steps, which we need to be wary of. Following them could prolong its shelf life and also keep it fresh.

The different thawing methods can experiment with, and you can fix a way that deems fit. It is also occasional since it depends on the necessity of the thawed turkey or how fast you need it to be. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you thaw a turkey safely?

It can be defrosted in the fridge, in cold water, or in the microwave. It cannot be kept at room temperature for a long time.

How long do you defrost the turkey in the fridge?

The turkey can be thawed in the fridge for 24 hours for every 2 kg of meat. A 5kg or 6kg of meat should be defrosted in the fridge for about 3 days max.

How to know that the turkey is fully defrosted?

You can know the turkey is defrosted by the touch and the flexibility of its bones. The temperature has to be above 1C.

How do you know that the turkey has gone bad?

You will know that the turkey has gone bad with the help of a foul smell, slimy texture, and discoloration of the meat with white or gray patches.

Can you keep a thawed turkey in the kitchen?

It is not advisable to keep a turkey in the kitchen for a long time. Microbes will breed on the surface and spoil the turkey.

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