How Long To Thaw A Turkey In A Refrigerator, Cold Water, Or Microwave

There are three ways to thaw a frozen turkey safely — in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven and each method determines when to thaw a turkey for Thanksgiving.

How long to thaw a turkey in the refrigerator

Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds when thawing a turkey in the refrigerator.

A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.

4 to 12 pounds 1 to 3 days before Thanksgiving
12 to 16 pounds 3 to 4 days before Thanksgiving
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days before Thanksgiving
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days before Thanksgiving

Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak.

If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.

How long to thaw a frozen turkey in cold water

Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound when thawing a turkey in cold water.

4 to 12 pounds 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours

Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water.

Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze.

How long to thaw a frozen turkey in a microwave oven

Check your owner’s manual for the size of turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound and power level to use for thawing.

Remove all outside wrapping.

Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak.

Cook your turkey immediately. Do not refreeze or refrigerate your turkey after thawing in the microwave oven.