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What to do if you forgot to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey

The larger the turkey, the more time that is needed to thaw it before cooking. But there is a way to quickly thaw a turkey.
What to do if you forgot to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey
Posted at 9:35 AM, Nov 21, 2023

Did you forget to thaw your turkey for Thanksgiving? Depending on how large your bird is, you may have needed to start thawing it days ago.

If you forgot to pull it out of the freezer, or did so too late, don't worry. Here are some helpful tips from the USDA for thawing a turkey.

According to the USDA, after placing the turkey in a water-tight bag, submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Then, change the water every 30 minutes until thawed.

Here is how long it takes to thaw a turkey using water.:

4 to 12 pounds — 2 to 6 hours

12 to 16 pounds — 6 to 8 hours

16 to 20 pounds — 8 to 10 hours

20 to 24 pounds — 10 to 12 hours

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Once a turkey is thawed, the USDA says it must be cooked within one to two days before becoming contaminated.

Here is a general rule of thumb on when to move your turkey from the freezer to the refrigerator, according to the USDA:

4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days

12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days

16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days

20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has other tips for preparing a turkey on its website. 

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