I get asked every year about how long to defrost a turkey. Not because I’m a noted cook, but because I raise turkeys for meat (so, I’m not an expert). When it’s a food safety issue, the first place I look is the USDA. So, here’s the answer straight from the USDA–you should find everything you’re looking for (and more) at this link:
USDA Seasonal Food Safety (Countdown to Thanksgiving…)
I’ve copied/pasted some of the basics from that above link here:
Most importantly for those of you who don’t cook much:
Never defrost your turkey at room temperature.
NOTE: I’ve often defrosted with both the refrigerator and the “cold water” method (at the end of defrosting period) for those monstrously huge turkeys. Anyway, here’s the basics (from the USDA):
IN THE REFRIGERATOR
Place frozen bird in original wrapper in the refrigerator (40 °F or below). Allow approximately 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
Thawing Time in the Refrigerator
Size of Turkey: Number of Days
4 to 12 pounds: 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds: 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds: 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds: 5 to 6 days
IN COLD WATER
If you forget to thaw the turkey or don’t have room in the refrigerator for thawing, don’t panic. You can submerge the turkey in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. Allow about 30 minutes defrosting time per pound of turkey. The following times are suggested for thawing turkey in water. Cook immediately after thawing.
Thawing Time in Cold Water
Size of Turkey: Hours to Defrost
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
Read more:USDA Seasonal Food Safety (Countdown to Thanksgiving…)
Hope this helps Mom!