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I left my Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer too long, can I still thaw it?

Thanksgiving Food Safety
Posted at 7:16 AM, Nov 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-22 11:57:28-05

Is your turkey still sitting in the freezer? Depending on its size, it’s likely too late to thaw in the refrigerator.

If you forgot to thaw, or did so too late, do not 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

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

Perhaps you'll be enjoying your turkey later in the weekend.

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