When to Thaw Turkey Before Christmas

Wondering when you should start defrosting your turkey for Christmas?

Planning a delicious Christmas feast with a succulent turkey centerpiece? It’s essential to know when to thaw your turkey to ensure a safe and tasty holiday meal.

Below I have laid EXACT when you need to put your turkey in the fridge plus some information on how long you can leave your turkey in the fridge and as well ways to defrost it. 

You Should Thaw Your Turkey 1 Week Before Christmas Day

Assuming you want to cook your turkey on Christmas Eve or Day  you need to start thawing your turkey in advance by 5 days.

This week timeframe will give plenty of time for the meat to thaw properly. Be sure to read further on, as we discuss specific timings as well as an alternative thawing method…

Just incase you have less than 5 days before you plan to cook the turkey.

Note: Refrigerated thawing is the safest method for a turkey. This is due to their large size. We will cover the specific defrosting timings below.


How Long It Takes to Thaw a Turkey?

The period of time it takes to thaw a turkey depends on 2 factors. The weight of your entire bird and the method of thawing.

Now we know the rough time you should start the thawing process before Christmas, I have highlighted the specific thawing rates which you can apply to the weight of your own bird. So be sure to check the packaging!

As an example, we will be thawing 12 pounds of turkey.


Rate of Defrosting a Turkey in the Refrigerator

A frozen turkey will defrost at a rate of 4 pounds every 24 hours. So a 12-pound turkey will take 3 days to thoroughly thaw!


How Long Will a Thawed Turkey Keep in the Fridge?

I bet you’re asking why I have set defrost rate 5 days before Christmas when an average weighing turkey takes 3? I’m glad you asked…

A thawed turkey will keep up to 5 days in the fridge. Remember that this is based on a 12 pound turkey, these delicious birds can weigh up to double that size.

Adjust the defrosting rate based on your own bird and work out how many days before Christmas you should allow.


How to Use The The Cold Water Method For Thawing a Frozen Turkey

Oh no! Have you only got a few days before the big day and your turkey is still at the bottom of your freezer?

Place your packaged turkey into a sink filled with cold tap water and then fully submerge by using something weighty… I use a cast iron oven tray!

Note: This defrosting method requires attention. You will need to monitor the water temp and refill every 60 minutes. This is to avoid unsafe temperatures that bad bacteria thrive in!

Rate of Defrosting a Christmas Turkey in Cold Water

A frozen turkey will defrost at a rate of 30 minutes per pound. So A 12-pound turkey will take roughly 6 hours!


Monitor the Internal Temp of the Turkey

A meat thermometer isn’t just for cooked meat. You can test if the thicker parts of your turkey are defrosted by inserting into the breast and the legs.

The safe temperature will read between 32°F – 39°F.

Why It’s a Bad Idea to Microwave Defrost a Whole Turkey

Save that defrost function for smaller cuts of meat. Don’t be the fool this Christmas while trying to stuff a whole turkey into your domestic microwave!

Trust me, it doesn’t work!


Tips for Defrosting Your Turkey

– Thaw in the refrigerator for the easiest and safest method.

– Work out the timings as per above.

– Don’t store a thawed turkey refrigerated for more than 1 week.

– Avoid the leg or breast bone for an accurate temperature reading.

– Wipe down surfaces like your kitchen counter or sink if it has touched raw meat!

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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