These methods ensure that the turkey thaws at a steady, safe temperature — one that is warm enough to actually help it defrost, but still cold enough to keep bacteria from multiplying rapidly. Thawing is an art form, folks.
Refrigerator: If you're thawing your frozen turkey in the fridge, the USDA recommends allowing 24 hours for every four to five pounds. "If you have a big turkey it can take days to thaw, so plan ahead," Reynolds says. You'll want to keep the bird in it's original wrapper and place it in a pan to catch any raw juices that leak out — once it's thawed, you can keep it in the fridge for up to two days.
Cold water: "The bath of cold water will help the frozen turkey thaw faster and more evenly," Reynolds says. Make sure to wrap your turkey securely in a plastic bag so water can't leak in — you do not want a waterlogged turkey, she says. Submerge the whole bird in cold water, and the USDA recommends 30 minutes for every pound. "You'll need to change the water every 30 minutes because it'll get too cold and stop thawing evenly," Reynolds says. Once the turkey is thawed from the cold water bath, cook it immediately.
Microwave: "The microwave will thaw your turkey much faster so it's spending less time in the danger zone," Reynolds says. But do not bank on using this method until you've checked that your turkey actually fits in there! Read the owner's manual to find out which power level to use and how many minutes you'll need per pound. You'll want to remove the outside wrapping and place it in a dish to catch the raw juices, then cook immediately once it's thawed.