When to Thaw Turkey Before Thanksgiving

You’re in charge of Thanksgiving dinner this year. As excited as you are, you’re probably also a bit stressed out.

Fortunately, you really don’t have to worry about the turkey. If you thaw the turkey out early enough, this will be the easiest part of your meal preparation!

If you’re not sure when you should thaw the turkey, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered!

Keep reading to learn all about when and how to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey.

When Should I Thaw My Turkey Before Thanksgiving?

You should thaw the turkey early enough that it will be defrosted on Thursday morning. Thawing turkey in the refrigerator is the best way. The refrigerator method takes about a day per five pounds of turkey.

If you have a 15-pound bird, then you should expect the thawing process to take about 3 days. If you don’t have enough time to use the refrigerator method, there are quicker ways to thaw frozen turkey.

Many people use the cold water method. If you submerge the turkey in cold water, it will thaw at a rate of 30 minutes per pound.


A 20-pound turkey will take about 10 hours to thaw in cold tap water. This method is best when you can start thawing the day before.

If you use the cold water method, be sure to change the water every 30 minutes. This will prevent the water from getting too warm.

If it’s the morning of your Thanksgiving feast, you can try the microwave method. Using your microwave’s defrost setting will take about 6 minutes per pound of turkey. Not all turkeys will fit in all microwaves. If your turkey doesn’t fit in the microwave, you may have to cook your turkey from frozen.

If your wondering how far in advance you can buy a fresh turkey before Thanksgiving or Christmas we have more information here.


How Long Does It Take To Thaw a Turkey?

Thawing a turkey in the refrigerator will take a day for each 5 pounds of turkey. Cold water thawing will take about 30 minutes for each pound. The microwave method is the quickest method. It will only take 6 minutes per pound of turkey meat.

There are other methods for thawing a turkey. While some people will say that these methods are quicker, that doesn’t mean they are good.

You have to sacrifice food safety to use any other method of thawing meat. So make sure to allow plenty of time to thaw the frozen bird before Thanksgiving day!


Can I Thaw Turkey Ahead of Time?

You can thaw turkey about a day early. This will allow you 24 hours to brine the turkey if you wish.

However, you should not thaw the turkey much more than 24 hours early. Defrosted turkey can develop bacteria when it’s in the refrigerator for too long.


Looking for Sides for Your Turkey?

Here are some of my favorite sides for turkey, these are traditional yet easy recipes to create.

You can cook a frozen bird. It will take longer, but it will still turn out well.

What if I Forget to Thaw My Turkey?

You can cook a frozen bird. It will take longer, but it will still turn out well.

However, do not fry a frozen turkey. This could result in an explosion that would ruin a lot more than just your meat.

Adjust the cooking time and you will be able to use most cooking methods to cook a frozen turkey.

Now that you know how to thaw the turkey, you’re ready for Thanksgiving week. Just implement these tips and you’ll be sure to get the turkey ready on time!


Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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