Three ways to thaw your holiday turkey

Did you know you can take your turkey from the freezer to the oven and still have it ready for dinner?

Cooked turkey on a platter

Holidays are hectic in the kitchen. There is a menu to plan, pies to make, potatoes to peel and many other traditional food items to prepare. What happens when you realize the turkey did not make it out of the freezer in time for proper thawing in the refrigerator?

No need to worry. There are three other ways you can thaw your turkey safely and get it in the oven on time.

One way is to place the frozen turkey in a large bowl, set the bowl in the sink and let water run over the turkey in a gentle stream or let it stand in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. The temperature of the water should be 70 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. You will have to turn the turkey so it thaws evenly. After thawing, it is important to wash, rinse and sanitize the sink, faucet and nearby work surfaces. This prevents any contamination extending from the sink to other foods.

A microwave can also be used to thaw the turkey so you are able to have dinner on time. The challenge of using a microwave to thaw a turkey will be if the turkey can fit in the microwave. If it can, it is best to use the defrost setting. After defrosting, immediately prepare and cook the turkey. Because a microwave heats unevenly and will have already partially cooked the turkey in some areas, cooking immediately after microwaving must take place to prevent bacteria from growing.

Another way to thaw and prepare the turkey for cooking is to remove all plastic wrapping, put it in a roasting pan and place it in a 325-degree oven. Don’t put a frozen turkey in a cooking bag because you will eventually need to remove the bag of giblets and the neck. After about one-and-a-half hours, open the oven and remove the bag of giblets and the neck. If the giblets are in a plastic package, be sure the bag has not melted. Plastic can contaminate the turkey if it melts while it is roasting, and if that happens, you will have to throw out the turkey. If you choose to roast your turkey from a frozen state, plan for at least a 50% longer cooking time.

So, just how long does it take to cook a frozen turkey? The USDA recommends adding half the amount of time that you would normally use to cook your turkey. For example, if your thawed turkey cooks for five hours, a frozen turkey would have to cook for 7.5 hours.

Michigan State University Extension recommends using a thermometer when cooking a turkey. Always check the temperature to identify if the turkey is cooked thoroughly. Turkey should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit internally, and that includes cooking a frozen, stuffed turkey. Be sure to check it in three different places: the thickest part of the breast, between the thigh and the leg and between the breast and the wing.


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