Thawing Your Pasture-Raised Turkey

Your pasture-raised Thanksgiving turkey will arrive frozen at your door. Learn more about how to thaw your bird and plan ahead for the big day!

Refrigerator Thawing

Thawing in the refrigerator is the recommended way to defrost a frozen turkey. For it to work, however, you’ll need plenty of time: 24 hours of defrosting time for every 4 to 5 pounds of bird. A large turkey, say, 15 to 20 pounds, will need to spend 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Which means you’ll have to plan ahead. If you can manage that, you’ll be golden. (And your turkey will be golden-brown and delicious.)

Here’s how to do it:

  • Make sure that your refrigerator is at 40°F or colder.
  • Leave the turkey in its original wrapper.
  • Place the bird on a tray or in a pan to collect any juices that leak out.
  • Keep it at the bottom of your fridge so that any leakage won’t contaminate anything below.
  • Allow 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of frozen turkey (see the full chart below).


Cold Water Thawing

It’s possible to safely thaw a frozen turkey in a sink full of cold water, but it won’t be easy. The problem is, you need to allow 30 minutes of thawing time for every pound of frozen bird, and you MUST keep the water 40 F or colder the entire time.

That means monitoring the temperature with an instant read thermometer and changing the water every half hour.

Moreover, you can’t necessarily merely add fresh water from the tap; the water needs to be colder than 40 F. If the water coming out of your tap is warmer than that, you’ll have to add ice to lower the temperature.

Also, you’ve got to make sure the turkey remains completely submerged. If it floats (and it will), you’ll need to weigh it down. And if your sink is too small, this method won’t work.

And whatever you do, don’t try to thaw a turkey in HOT water. 

Here’s a time chart to help you compare thawing times using the refrigerator and cold-water methods:

Turkey Weight Thawing Time
Thawing Time
(Cold Water)
Up to 12 lbs 1 to 3 days 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 lbs 3 to 4 days 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 lbs 4 to 5 days 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 lbs 5 to 6 days 10 to 12 hours



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