After I wrote last week’s blog post answering the question of how long a raw turkey can be kept in the fridge, I realized I should have started with a more fundamental topic: how should we defrost a frozen pasture raised turkey?
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just follow these three steps:
- Leave turkey in original packaging. This will prevent the turkey from picking up any odors from other foods in the fridge, especially seafood.
- Place turkey, breast side up, in a large pan up to catch any leaks. If a pan is not available, double bag it in a large, heavy duty bag such as a garbage bag.
- Store turkey in a refrigerator below 40 degrees to defrost it. 40 degrees is the important number to remember!
A turkey will require approximately 1 day in the refrigerator for every 4 lbs of weight. This relationship starts to break down for turkeys above 20 pounds, as they normally don’t require much more than 5 days in the refrigerator. But the general guidelines would be:
- 12 lbs: Allow 3 days
- 16 lbs: Allow 4 days
- 20 lbs: Allow 5 days
My default advice is to place the turkey in the fridge the Friday or Saturday before Thanksgiving. This should allow for enough time to have the turkey fully defrosted and ready for baking on Thursday.
Saving Time with Brining
If you are brining your turkey, you can subtract two days of defrosting time by placing a partially thawed turkey in your brining liquid. The turkey will defrost as it brines. I discovered this when preparing whole frozen pigs for pig roasts, and this has become my go-to technique ever since. It works well for turkeys too.