How to Tell if a Turkey Is Thawed Before You Need to Cook It

Freezing a turkey is the most common and safe way for keeping it longer. So what are the best ways to thaw and how do I know it is ready for my cooking process?

Don’t worry. Defrosting a frozen turkey isn’t complicated. But it does take a little bit of time.

So let’s understand the safe thawing methods. And the telling characteristic to know is if your turkey has thawed.

Note: The methods in this article can be applied to all cuts of meat, not just turkey.

The Physical Signs to Tell if Your Turkey Has Thawed

Even someone with very little experience in the kitchen should know when meat is frozen.

A frozen bird will be solid to the touch. And (obviously) be very cold to the touch.

The packaging and raw turkey flesh may still have ice crystals on them.


But What if Your Turkey Isn’t Showing These Signs and You Want to Be Sure?

The turkey flesh should have a little bounce to the touch. A good tip is to try and move the wings to judge the wiggle room. They will move freely and without any sound.This is a good indication you no longer have frozen meat.

Use a Food Thermometer With a Long Probe

The physical signs are a great start. But I will always recommend checking with a food thermometer.

They aren’t just for checking cooked foods! 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 has thawed.

What Reading Is a Safe Internal Temperature for a Thawed Turkey?

The safe temperature for your turkey should be 32°F – 39°F. I have recommended using a long probe because an entire bird can weigh up to 20 pounds! Insert the probe into the middle of the breast meat and thigh.

Note: Sticking your probe in raw meat will cause contamination, do not forget to safely clean it straight afterward.


The Best Techniques & Safe Methods to Defrost a Turkey

Keep reading to understand a safe thawing process or 2!

Defrosting in a Refrigerator

Defrosting your turkey in your fridge is the safest and easiest way. The only hard part is it being able to fit!

This method of thawing does take a long time. So plan and get your turkey out of the freezer a few days before.

Note: you can’t leave your turkey defrosted in the fridge for a week.

The Size Matters

Knowing the exact weight of your turkey is crucial to working out the rate of thawing.

Check the packaging or ask your butcher for its weight. If your defrosting your turkey for thanksgiving you need to allow a day for each pound of turkey if your using the refrigerator.

How to Work Out the Rate of Defrosting

The average refrigerator is set at a temperature of 40°F.

Check your refrigerator’s temperature gauge to make sure.

At this temp, the turkey will thaw at a rate of 5 pounds of bird every 24 hours.

Let’s say you have a 10-pound turkey.

It would take 2 days of thawing to defrost completely.

Keep Turkey in Its Original Packaging

If you choose this method, it is always better to leave the turkey in its original packaging.

This is down to food safety, and convenience and can affect the cooked meat.

The low moisture in the fridge can dry out the uncooked meat.

It will also stop the raw meat juices from contaminating anything else!

How Long Do I Have to Cook After a Turkey Has Thawed?

After this defrosting method, you have 1 or 2 days to cook the meat before it starts to spoil.

Can I Freeze It Again Within Those 2 Days?

Yes, you can put it back into the freezer.

But you might lose some moisture from the turkey meat.

So it wouldn’t produce the juiciest turkey!

Note: you can start cooking a partially frozen turkey however you may need to empty the turkey cavity as you cook it.


Check the Turkey Cavity

It has been known that once defrosted, there still might be some ice remaining in the cavity.

Do not let this dismay you.

Simply run cold water for a minute to resolve this.

Microwaving a Frozen Turkey

I do not reccomend this method of thawing because sometimes it is harder to judge.

But you can if you’re turkey is small enough.

Or you want to defrost a smaller part that you had previously taken apart.

Place in a microwave-safe dish and on the defrost function.

The standard rate for microwaving is 6 minutes per pound.

Note: If your microwave doesn’t have a defrost function then don’t do it!

Cooking a Partially or Completely Frozen Turkey

You can cook a frozen turkey but you will need to allow for more cooking time.

I reccomend thawing completely though.

As it can cause parts to cook quicker than others.

It also tends to ruin the integrity of the meat proteins.

Leaving your turkey mushy.

Allow for 25% extra cooking time for a partially thawed turkey.

Allow for 50% extra cooking time for a completely frozen turkey.

Turkey Recipes

Smoking Turkey in a Gas Smoker

Smoked Turkey Tails

Smoking Turkey in an Electric Smoker

Turkey Gravy

Smoked Turkey Wings

Smoked Turkey in a Pit Boss

Basic Food Saftey Tips

– Pay attention and wash any surfaces or utensils you have used when handling raw meat.

– Don’t leave raw or cooked meat out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours.

– Cook the thawed meat within 2 days.

– Use a meat thermometer to accurately measure the raw or cooked internal temperatures.

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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