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Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlooks

A local discussion of current science and issues concerning dairying in northwest iowa

With turkey being the most common feature on Thanksgiving tables it is vital for food safety that turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature during “the big thaw.” While frozen, a turkey is safe almost indefinitely. However, as soon as it begins to thaw, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again.

A frozen turkey left thawing on the counter more than 2 hours is not at a safe temperature. Even though the center of the bird may still be frozen, the outer layer of the food is in the “Danger Zone” between 40 and 140 °F — at a temperature where food borne bacteria multiply rapidly.

There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey; in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave oven.
When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator plan ahead and allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds of bird in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below. Also place the turkey in a container to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods.
Refrigerator Thawing Times for Whole turkeys range from one to three days for a 4-12 pound bird to 5-6 days for a 20 to 24 pound bird.
A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking but it is safest to cook immediately.
For Cold Water Thawing of whole turkeys allow about 30 minutes per pound.

First be sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water, resulting in a watery product.

Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.

Cold Water Thawing Times for whole turkeys range from 2 to 6 hours for a 4 to 12 pound bird to 10-12 hours for a 20 to 24 pound bird.

A turkey thawed by the cold water method should be cooked immediately.

Follow the microwave oven manufacturer’s instruction when defrosting a turkey. Plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food by hand is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed.

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