How Long to Defrost Turkey Breast in Refrigerator

On a time crunch but still, want to enjoy turkey?

Cooking delicious turkey breasts is a great substitute rather than an entire turkey.

But what if the breast meat is frozen?

Let’s look at how long it takes for frozen turkey breasts to defrost in the fridge.

As well as the safest methods to avoid food poisoning from bacteria growth.


How to Work Out the Rate of Defrosting

Estimating timings when planning to cook is hard.

There are multiple factors to understand and account for.

These factors are determined by what resources you have.

Like the pounds of turkey breast or defrosting method.

And your ingredients…

Today are the boneless turkey breasts!

Below are the safe thawing methods for turkey breasts.

How Long It Takes Turkey Breast to Defrost in a Refrigerator

Turkey breasts will thaw at a rate of 4-5 pounds per 24 hours.

We recommend defrosting at a fridge temperature of 37°F.

Refrigerator thawing is the safest method for defrosting meat.

How to Defrost Turkey Breasts in the Refrigerator

– Organise the bottom level of the fridge for the turkey breasts. (To avoid contamination)

– Place in a tray large enough for them to fit in. (This will catch the water)

– Remove the breasts from the freezer and straight into the fridge.

– Thaw as per the above timing.

– Check they have thawed completely.

Note: Read further for signs of thawing. 


How Long It Takes Turkey Breast to Defrost Using Cold Water

In cold water, turkey breasts will thaw at a rate of 6-7 pounds per 24 hours.

Defrosting with cold water in a sink is another viable method.

But you will need to make sure the water temperature stays below 40°F.

How to Defrost Turkey Breasts With the Cold Water Method

– Keep the turkey breasts sealed.

– Fill your sink with cold tap water.

– Submerge the turkey breasts in the cold water bath. (Straight after removing them from the freezer)

– Replace the water every 30 minutes.

– Thaw as per the above timing.

– Check they have thawed completely.

How Long It Takes Turkey Breast to Defrost in a Microwave

A microwave oven is the quickest way to defrost meat.

Just be conscious that it has thawed completely.

Not just on the outside.

The rate of thawing depends on your microwave.

It is best to do 10-minute intervals and check. 

How to Defrost Turkey Breasts in a Microwave

– Place the frozen breasts on a microwave-safe dish.
– Let them sit at room temp for no longer than 15 minutes.
– Set the defrost settings.
– Microwave for 10 minutes and repeat until defrosted.

Example of Defrosting a 6-Pound Turkey Breast

A 6-pound turkey breast will defrost in just over 24 hours.

What Is the Average Weight of a Turkey Breast?

The average weight of a turkey breast is 7-8 pounds.

So you should allow at least 24 hours to defrost the breasts.

Food Safety Advice to Avoid Bacteria Growth

Bacterial growth on poultry meat can kill you!

So be careful during the defrosting process.

– Keep frozen raw turkey sealed to stop contamination from raw juices.

Keep frozen or raw meat out of the “danger zone” temperature range.

– Do not defrost with hot water.

– Know the signs of spoiled turkey meat. (Read further)

– Clean surfaces with hot soapy water.

– Always use a thermometer to know they are fully defrosted.

The ‘Danger Zone

Frozen turkey breasts can be left at room temp for up to 30 minutes.

Do not leave any raw or thawing breast meat at temps between 40°F – 140°F for longer.


How Long Can Defrosted Turkey Stay in the Fridge?

Defrosted meat will last up to 3 days in the fridge.

Any longer and the meat proteins will start to break down.

How Long Can I Freeze Turkey Breasts?

You can technically freeze meat forever.

But don’t!

Over 3 months will cause what is known as “freezer burn”.

This is when the frozen moisture within the proteins deteriorates.

Know the Physical Signs of a Raw Turkey Breast

A frozen turkey breast will be solid and cold to the touch.

The packaging and turkey breast may still have ice.

What about the physical signs?

The breast’s white meat should have a little bounce to the touch.

This is a quick indication you no longer have frozen meat.

Use a Meat Thermometer to Be Sure

Physical signs are a great start.

But be sure to use a food thermometer.

Using a calibrated instant-read thermometer will give you the exact temperature.

This is the most precise and accurate way of knowing if your turkey breast has thawed.

What Reading Is a Safe Internal Temperature for Thawed Turkey?

The safe temperature for your thawed turkey breast is 32°F – 39°F.

Insert the probe into the middle of the breast meat.

Avoid it touching the breastbone if your cut still has it in.

Note: Sticking your probe in raw meat will cause contamination.

And the risk of a food-borne illness.

Do not forget to safely clean it straight afterward.

Is My Defrosted Turkey Bad? – How to Tell

Below is my guide to inspecting if the breast meat is bad.
Remember that thawed meat has a higher chance of bacteria growth.
Due to a longer time and temperature changes.

Check the Shelf Life on the Packaging

The first thing is to check the use-by date.

The manufacturer is legally required to monitor and set a date when processing.

If you have frozen the meat you can be pretty sure it is past this date.

Cook on the day of thawing to avoid the meat spoiling.

The general rule of thumb time for refrigerator storage is 4 days from purchase.


Air Exposure to Raw Meat

Did you remove the turkey from the original packaging?

Or have noticed a breach in the seal?

Exposure to air accelerates the growth of bacteria.

Check the packaging for holes when defrosting.
Or move to an airtight container after purchase before freezing.

Texture of Bad Turkey

If you are still not sure then check for a slimy texture.

If it has an overly sticky texture it is an obvious sign of rotten meat.

Air exposure can also cause moisture loss.

A dry texture and crumbly consistency can indicate this.

Color of Bad Turkey

Fresh and safe-to-eat ground turkey is light pink.

A darker or brownish color is not what you want!

Bad meat will also tend to go a gray color from oxidization.

Inspect for signs of discoloration in raw poultry carefully.

This is because it might be a different color in the middle or at the bottom.


Smell of Spoiled Turkey

Probably the most effective way to know if meat products are bad.

As a foul odor and your natural response are hard to ignore.

This definitive smell may stink of rotten eggs.

Or have a characteristic sulfur-like smell.

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

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 recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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