Do you have a game plan for defrosting your Thanksgiving turkey? If your bird is frozen, you’ll need to thaw it out before cooking it and there are a few ways to safely do that, but putting it on the kitchen counter at room temperature isn’t one of them, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The thing is, to safely defrost a frozen turkey - or any other frozen meat - you don’t want it to warm up to temperatures between 40-degrees and 140-degrees Fahrenheit because that’s when foodborne bacteria rapidly multiply. The USDA calls that range the “Danger Zone,” and if your bird is sitting on a counter at room temperature for more than two hours, the outer layer will reach the Danger Zone even if the center is still frozen. And it’s not just the counter they want us to avoid, the they also warn against defrosting a frozen turkey:
In the garage
On the porch
In a brown paper grocery bag
In a plastic garbage bag
In a dishwasher (with or without water)
So how can we safely defrost one? There are two USDA-approved methods: Putting it in the fridge or in a cold-water bath. There’s some math involved either way and you’ll need plenty of time to do it. In the fridge, a frozen turkey will need roughly 24 hours for every four to five pounds to thaw, but a cold-water bath is a lot faster, as it takes about 30 minutes per pound, but you’ll need to cook it right after it’s thawed.