The USDA has some tips about how to thaw your turkey quickly for Thanksgiving dinner. It should be thawed in the refrigerator; but this can take days. In fact, a 16 pound turkey takes four days to thaw. If your turkey is still frozen, it’s too late to use this method.
The two methods for thawing a turkey quickly are the cold water method an the microwave method. If you use these methods, you have to cook the turkey immediately after it thaws.
For the cold water method, leave the turkey in its original wrapping and submerge it in a sink or container full of cold water. Change the water eery 30 minutes by emptying out the sink or container and replacing it with fresh cold water. This takes some commitment: to thaw a 16 pound turkey will take 8 hours to thaw, allowing 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound. If you want to eat in the afternoon, you need to start this process around 4:00 am Thanksgiving morning.
To thaw in the microwave oven, make sure the turkey will fit in it. You owner’s manual should have instructions for how to use this appliance to thaw the turkey. Find out how many minutes per pound it will take and the power level to use. Remove outside wrapping and put the turkey on a microwave-safe dish that is big enough to hold the bird and any juices that will leak out of the turkey. Allow about 6 minutes per pound to thaw a turkey. Rotate the bird several times and flip it to make sure the thawing process is even.
If the turkey starts to cook in the microwave, take it out and let it stand for 5 minutes before you continue thawing. You can cover the tips of the wings and the drumsticks with pieces of foil to shield them from the microwaves about halfway through the thawing process.
If your turkey is frozen sold and you don’t want to commit to these procedures, you can cook the turkey from the frozen state. This method is very easy and safe and produces a very nice result. The turkey will take at least 50% longer to cook through. You can also use this method if the turkey is partially frozen. Always use a meat thermometer. When the turkey measures 165°F in the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing, and the thickest part of the breast, it is done.
And here’s how NOT to thaw a turkey: on the counter, in the garage, or on the back porch. Never thaw a turkey in a brown paper grocery bag or plastic garbage bag. Don’t use the dishwasher to thaw a turkey, with or without water.