Learn how to quickly thaw a turkey using the method I learned from Alton Brown.
No need to stress if your turkey is still frozen the day before, there is still time to defrost it with this quick method.
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Are you finding yourself the day before the big day and your turkey still a solid block?
Do you need to rush to the store and get a fresh turkey instead or are you doomed to cooking at least partially frozen bird?
Do not fear, all hope is not lost. You can safely defrost your turkey and have it ready for the next day.
👨🍳 Alton Brown Method
Under no circumstance do you want to place a frozen turkey in the oven. So if you are in a hurry there is something you can do.
But first I must tell you that NEVER, EVER, EVER leave a turkey to thaw at room temperature. This is a good way to miss those great Black Friday sales because you are too busy visiting your toilet.
A much safer option is the one Alton Brown (of Good Eats) recommends. Here are my tips on this method.
- Take your frozen turkey (keep in the original wrapping), place it into a 5 gallon bucket, full of cold water. Your turkey should defrost (approximately) at a rate of 2 pounds every 1 hour.
- If you are concerned let it go an extra hour. Sometimes I find that I think it's fully defrosting, only to find a little ice in the cavity, which isn't the biggest deal if you find that and you are out of time. Still go ahead and cook it.
RELATED - Can You Thaw and Brine Turkey at the Same Time
🛁 Defrost in Bath Tub
- It's important the water you are using stays cold. That means at or below 40 degrees. If it rises above 40 degrees you may need to change the water, which is why it's best to do this in the bath tub where it will be a lot easier to change dump and refill a 5 gallon bucket.
- On average you may need to change the water every 2-3 hours. If you are not concerned about being able to check it that frequently you can put some ice in the water or some cold packs. This will probably slow down the process, so you might want to give yourself an extra hour or two. Even if your water is 32 degrees with the ice, the turkey will still thaw. A turkey isn't just water and it's freezing point is lower. A turkey is considered a fresh turkey when it's 26 degrees or above.
🌡️ How to Check the Water Temperature
Why 40 degrees? Above this temperature is when bacteria can start growing.
My recommendation for checking your water temperature is to use a probe thermometer. It's the same thing I use when I put the turkey in the oven to know when it's done. It can also monitor the temperature of the water to make sure it stays at or below 40 degrees.
Use what you have to clip the probe to the side of the bucket. You also could use an infrared or instant read thermometer to get a quick check of the water temperature.
🥶 Defrosting Times
These times are approximate, so it's good to give yourself a little wiggly room.
|10 pounds||5 hours|
|11 pounds||5 ½ hours|
|12 pounds||6 hours|
|13 pounds||6 ½ hours|
|14 pounds||7 hours|
|15 pounds||7 ½ hours|
|16 pounds||8 hours|
|17 pounds||8 ½ hours|
|18 pounds||9 hours|
|19 pounds||9 ½ hours|
|20 pounds||10 hours|
|21 pounds||10 ½ hours|
|22 pounds||11 hours|
🧱 If Your Turkey Floats
Every turkey I placed in a 5 gallon bucket has wanted to float on me. All you need to do is weigh it down. Use a pot or a clean brick. Make sure to come back and check to make sure it's still submerged.
🏆 Why this Method is Better
This method is faster than doing it in the fridge and safer than doing it at room temperature.
What happens when you do this in the process of conduction. The turkey and the water want to be at the same temperature. The outer part of the turkey will defrost before the inner part, so it's important to always keep the whole turkey below 40 degrees, so bacteria doesn't show up. This is why defrosting at room temperature is such a no-no.
🦃 More Thanksgiving Questions
Here are some other common questions we have answered on the blog:
My turkey packaging has a tiny hole. Can I still use this method?
Do you think water could get in the hole? You could find a way to seal the hole or you could thaw the turkey and brine it at the same time. Add salt and other seasonings to the water and take the turkey out of the packaging. Be sure the water stay cold, should have ice in it all times. Check out this video showing you how if you are interest in brining.
If someone doesnt have a proper thermometer to keep check on the water and were thawing the turkey in a five gallon bucket of wate, , how often should the water be changed.
Thawing a 20# turkey quickly and safely
I bought an 18 lb turkey last night frozen and kept it in the fridge overnight so how long should i put it in ice today. It was in the fridge overnight for about 12-14 hours
The time in the fridge is pretty short, you probably didn't make a ton of progress. I would just stay with the times suggested above.