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How Long to Thaw a Turkey

Learn how to thaw turkey – 2 different ways! Includes a FREE printable turkey thawing chart to easily reference each holiday season. 

It’s that time of year to start thinking about your Thanksgiving turkey. If you’ve never cooked one before, you’re probably wondering what the turkey thawing time is. But have no fear, you’ll find all of the information you need to get started right here!

thawed turkey with herb butter in pan
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When making a roasted turkey or smoked turkey for your Thanksgiving menu, make sure you let it thaw in time before cooking! The last thing you want is to wake up on Thanksgiving morning with a rock hard frozen turkey. It happens to the best of us, but is definitely not ideal.

Today I’m going to show you how to thaw a turkey two different ways (in the refrigerator or in water). The refrigerator method is easier, but takes longer. Thawing a turkey in water requires a bit more work, but is quicker. Each way works great, so it all depends on what works best for your schedule.

thawing frozen turkey in fridge

Refrigerator method

This is probably the most classic method for thawing a turkey. It’s super simple and requires hardly any work. The hardest part is just remembering to put the turkey in the fridge a few days in advance. It does take a little longer than other methods, so always allow about 24 hours for every 5 pounds.

Instructions: Place the packaged turkey (breast side up) in a large pan or tray. This helps catch any liquid or juices that leak out while thawing. Then place in the fridge to thaw completely (refer to chart below for total thawing time).

  • 5 pounds: let thaw 1 day
  • 10 pounds: let thaw 2 days
  • 15 pounds: let thaw 3 days
  • 20 pounds: let thaw 4 days
  • 25 pounds: let thaw 5 days
  • 30 pounds: let thaw 6 days
thawing frozen turkey in bucket of water

Thawing turkey in water

You can also thaw a frozen turkey in water. This method is a lot quicker, but requires more work and attention. You can place the turkey in your sink or in a bucket of water. Allow 30 minutes of thawing time per pound.

Instructions: Before getting started, the turkey must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag (the raw meat should never touch the water). Place the wrapped turkey in the sink or bucket, then submerge with cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes so that it doesn’t get too warm.

  • 5 pounds: thaw for 2.5 hours
  • 10 pounds: thaw for 5 hours
  • 15 pounds: thaw for 7.5 hours
  • 20 pounds: thaw for 10 hours
  • 25 pounds: thaw for 12.5 hours
  • 30 pounds: thaw for 15 hours
turkey thawing chart

FREE printable turkey thawing chart

This is a helpful visual to print out and have handy this holiday season. It also includes a turkey roasting chart. You can even get it laminated to reference year after year!

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