OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Thanksgiving is a little over a week away, but now is the time to start thinking about cooking for the holiday.
Many people celebrate by hosting large gatherings at home, and with large gatherings come lots of food. Turkey is usually the highlight of the meal, so it’s important to pay attention to ensure your bird is properly prepared.
So, how long does it take to thaw a turkey? It depends on what method you use.
According to foodsafety.gov, you can thaw in the refrigerator (recommended), utilize the cold-water bath method or thaw in the microwave. If you opt to thaw in the refrigerator, it’s optimal to thaw for 24 hours for every 5 pounds. For the cold-water bath, it’s 30 minutes per pound. Check your user manual for thaw time using the microwave method.
The website does not recommend thawing a turkey on the counter or in hot water, nor should a turkey be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
What about washing your bird before you cook it? Foodsafety.gov does not recommend doing so, due to the fact that you can actually risk cross-contamination.
Although you may be wondering on whether to stuff your turkey, you might want to think twice. Stuffing your turkey will only make it take longer to cook, and the optimal temperature for the inside of the turkey should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit, using a cooking thermometer.
For big birds, you may be tempted to cook on low overnight, because of the length of time it takes to cook large turkeys. This could be dangerous, however. Per foodsafety.gov, “at lower temperatures, poultry stays in the Danger Zone (between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) for too long.” The site states cooking poultry at oven temperatures lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit is not safe.
Rather, if you’re short on time, perhaps opt for an oven bag. The proper cook times for birds ranging in size are listed below:
- 8-12 lb. turkey: 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- 12 to 16 lb. turkey: 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
- 16-20 lb. turkey: 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
- 20-24 lb. turkey: 3 to 3 1/2 hours.