How to safely thaw your Thanksgiving turkey

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Have a bird ready for Thanksgiving? You may need to start thawing it out soon.

Cooking that deliciously delectable main course can be a bit of a hassle, and that’s why we’re here to help. There’s some turkey basics to safely thawing your bird.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature during “the big thaw.” A frozen turkey left thawing on the counter more than two hours is not at a safe temperature, according to experts.

A turkey is safe while frozen, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria may grow before freezing can take place again. Experts say frozen turkeys should not be left on the back porch, in the car trunk, in the basement, or any place else where temperatures cannot be constantly monitored.

The USDA says there are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave oven.

Refrigerator Thawing

When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator, experts say plan ahead.

Allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below. Also, make sure you place the turkey in a container to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods.

A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking.

Cold Water Thawing

Forgot to put the turkey in the refrigerator? There’s still hope.

When thawing your bird in cold water, experts say allow about 30 minutes per pound.

First be sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water.

Then, submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed.

Make sure you cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.

Microwave Thawing

The USDA says follow the microwave oven manufacturer's instruction when defrosting a turkey.

Your last hope of thawing a frozen turkey on time for the big meal is a microwave oven – though you’ll need a large microwave or a small turkey to pull it off.

Also, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving.

If you have any turkey cooking prep question, you can also call the Butterball hotline at 1-800-288-8372.

Copyright 2017 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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