The Art of Safely Thawing Your Thanksgiving Turkey for a Flavorful Feast

Taking the helm of Thanksgiving’s centerpiece, the turkey, can be an intimidating responsibility. The concerns expressed by nearly half of Americans, as revealed in a 2021 survey, highlight the anxiety around achieving that perfect, succulent bird. Fear not, as success begins with a crucial step – the proper thawing of the turkey, ensuring not only a safe but also a delicious Thanksgiving celebration.

Understanding the Importance of Thawing:

In the realm of holiday cooking, the Centers for Disease Control underscores the significance of correctly thawing a frozen turkey to mitigate the risk of food poisoning. Fortunately, Butterball, a trusted source in poultry wisdom, provides valuable insights into two recommended thawing methods, each accompanied by its unique considerations.

Thawing Methods:

  1. Refrigerator Thawing:
  • Procedure:
  1. Place the turkey breast side up, in its unopened wrapper, on a tray in the refrigerator, maintaining a temperature of 40°F or below.
  2. Allocate at least one day of thawing for every 4 lbs of turkey.
  3. Keep the turkey in its original packaging and on the tray.
  4. Utilize the thawed turkey within four days.
  • Additional Insights:
  1. The CDC recommends keeping the turkey in the freezer until ready to initiate the thawing process. Furthermore, a turkey thawed in the refrigerator can be stored there for 1 to 2 days before embarking on the cooking journey.
  1. Cold Water Thawing:
  • Procedure:
  1. Thaw the turkey breast side down, in its unopened wrapper, with enough cold water to submerge it completely.
  2. Change the water every 30 minutes; if the turkey cannot be fully submerged, rotate it every 30 minutes to maintain an optimal chill.
  3. Anticipate 30 minutes of thawing per pound of turkey.
  • Special Considerations:
  1. The CDC recommends placing the turkey in a leakproof plastic bag in the sink during cold water thawing. This not only prevents the spread of turkey juices in the kitchen but also ensures the turkey doesn’t absorb excess water, which could impact its final texture.
  2. A turkey thawed in cold water must be promptly cooked after the thawing process.


Regardless of the chosen method, Butterball emphasizes the cardinal rule – never thaw a turkey at room temperature. Both approaches have their merits, with refrigerator thawing being favored for its simplicity, albeit requiring more time. On the flip side, cold water thawing offers a quicker alternative but demands attentive water changes.

Additional Consideration:

For those grappling with time constraints, Butterball suggests exploring Fresh Whole Turkeys, a convenient option that promises equal delectability with minimal preparation.

Exploring Alternatives:

In the spirit of flexibility, for those contemplating alternatives to the traditional cooking route, a list of 13 Chicago restaurants offering Thanksgiving takeout dinners is thoughtfully provided.