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The Thawing of the Bird

Make sure your turkey is oven-ready on Thanksgiving Day

There are many first-time turkey cooks who may be wondering how that big, beautiful bird arrives piping hot from the oven to the table. And there are plenty of veterans who have cut into a turkey to find it a bit on the dry side. That's the cooking end of it, which we've covered here.

Before that wonderful aroma begins to waft from the oven, however, it must be thawed (if frozen), washed, trussed, and sometimes stuffed.

There are certain "laws" about safely thawing a turkey and you can find them in numerous places.

The standards for refrigerator thawing are:
-2.5 days for up to 12 pounds
-2.5-4.0 days for up to 16 pounds
-5.0 days for up to 20 pounds
-6.0 days for up to 24 pounds

We have found, however, that it typically takes a little longer than the recommended times and even pulling it half a day sooner can help.

Most brand turkeys will have little packets stuffed inside. Remember to pull those out. They may contain the "extra" body parts (neck, giblets) and a second packet may contain pre-made gravy (all you have to add is milk and flour and fluids from the cooked bird).

Inevitably, you'll remove the bird from the fridge for oven prepping and there may be some solid icy spots in the cavities. You need to rinse the bird, anyway, so running cold water into these spaces will quickly thaw those remaining frozen spots. For larger birds, you may need an assistant to help turn and hold the bird or handle the faucet. Try to avoid touching faucet or handles until after you have washed your hands thoroughly. You should also disinfect the sink and everything around it.

Place plastic on a large tray and set the damp bird on top. Pat it dry with paper towels. Add a good dousing of salt and pepper to the cavities. Now, you can place it in the roaster pan. Rub a little vegetable (cooking) oil over all the skin parts. Truss the legs (tie the two knobs at the end together) and tuck in the wings (use toothpicks if you have to).

A note about cold-water and microwave thawing.

Cold-water thawing is perfectly acceptable for smaller birds. However, it is painstaking and should only be done in emergencies. Then general rule of thumb is keep the bird in the original wrapping and keep it immersed in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes.

-6 hours for up to 12 pounds
-8 hours for up to 16 pounds
-10 hours for up to 20 pounds
-12 hours for up to 24 pounds
As you can see, it would hardly be useful to try thawing a very large bird at the "last minute."

Microwaving times will vary per model and brand and most turkey packaging will offer the best advice. The problem with microwave thawing is some parts may actually begin to cook long before the bird is ready to place in the oven. This leaves opportunity for bacterial growth as well as dried out sections of the bird that must still roast in the oven. We recommend microwaving only for post-turkey meals.




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