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How Long to Defrost a Turkey

Blog • December 7th 2022

Knowing how long to defrost a turkey is an important part of preparing your perfect Christmas feast. Everybody loves roast potatoes, pigs in blankets and other trimmings, but it is the turkey that is the star of the show. Make sure your Christmas dinner is a success by ordering a succulent free range turkey in advance and freezing it. This way you won't lose out on any flavour but you will save yourself the last minute stress of frantically shopping for a bird on Christmas eve. You just have to remember to get your turkey out of the freezer in time for it to fully thaw before cooking. Learn how long to defrost a turkey for safe and delicious results with our ultimate guide.

Table of Contents:

  • How long to Defrost a Turkey Depending on Size
  • The Best Way to Defrost a Turkey
  • Can You Defrost a Turkey at Room Temperature?
  • Can You Defrost a Turkey in a Microwave?
  • How Do I Know If My Turkey is Fully Defrosted?

HOW LONG TO DEFROST A TURKEY DEPENDING ON SIZE

In order to know how long to defrost a turkey before your Christmas meal, you must first know its size. There can be a big difference in thaw times for an 8kg whole turkey compared to a 2.5kg turkey crown. Once your Christmas turkey has been delivered, take note of the weight before freezing. Make sure to write the weight down so you remember. Once you know the weight, it is easy to figure out how long to defrost a turkey. On average, you need to leave about 24 hours for thawing per every 2kg of turkey. Below you can find some guidelines on how long to defrost a turkey.

  • To defrost a 2kg - 2.5kg turkey crown - 1 day.
  • To defrost a 3kg - 3.5kg turkey crown - 1 day and a half.
  • To defrost a 2kg - 2.5kg whole turkey - 1 day.
  • To defrost a 2.5kg - 3.5kg whole turkey - 1 day and a half.
  • To defrost a 4kg - 5kg whole turkey - 2 days.
  • To defrost a 5kg - 6kg whole turkey - 3 days.
  • To defrost a 7kg - 7.5kg whole turkey - 3 days and a half.
  • To defrost 7.5kg - 8.5kg whole turkey - 4 days.

THE BEST WAY TO DEFROST A TURKEY

The safest and best way of defrosting a turkey is in the fridge. Once you know how long to defrost your turkey for, follow these simple steps:

  1. Clear a space in your fridge on the bottom shelf. Defrosting your turkey on the bottom shelf means that any leaked moisture won't contaminate any fresh food below.
  2. Choose a large roasting pan or plate that your turkey can sit on.
  3. If you can set the temperature of your fridge, the ideal temperature for defrosting your turkey is 4°C.
  4. Move your frozen turkey from the freezer, to your chosen pan or plate and place in the fridge.

For more guidance on how to freeze and defrost other meats, read our Ultimate Freezing and Defrosting Guide.

CAN YOU DEFROST A TURKEY AT ROOM TEMPERATURE?

No, you should never defrost a turkey at room temperature. This is because it will expose the turkey to something called the 'Danger Zone'. The 'Danger Zone' describes temperatures between 8°C and 63°C as this is the environment in which bacteria will grow. If meat is defrosted in between these temperatures, microbes will be able to grow. This is why you should never defrost your turkey at room temperature, in direct sunlight or by a radiator. It is safest to defrost your turkey in a fridge where the temperature will be kept at about 5°C or lower.

CAN YOU DEFROST A TURKEY IN A MICROWAVE?

Yes, it is possible to defrost a turkey in the microwave, if your microwave is big enough! However we do not use this method as the results can be inconsistent and the temperature is harder to control. Especially with larger birds, the outer edges may begin cooking at a low temperature whilst the inside is still trying to defrost. This means you are at risk of entering the 'Danger Zone' and letting bacteria grow. If you are pushed for time and must defrost your turkey in a microwave, it's vital you follow the manufacturer's instructions and use defrost mode. Once defrosted, you must cook the turkey straight away. Do not then store it in the fridge.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY TURKEY IS FULLY DEFROSTED?

It is essential that your turkey is fully defrosted before cooking. Here are four ways to check whether your turkey has completely thawed and is safe to be prepared.

  • Press a finger into the breast meat. It should feel soft. If it feels hard then the turkey needs longer to defrost.
  • Remove the giblets from your turkey and put your hand into the cavity. Touch the inside of the breast bone, this shouldn't feel frozen or icy.
  • Try to move the legs and wings gently. If they wiggle with little resistance then your turkey is defrosted. However, if the legs and wings are stiff or can't be moved, then the turkey needs longer to thaw.
  • If you have a meat thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the turkey breast or leg. If the bird's temperature is anything below 1°C, the turkey is still frozen.

Once your turkey is fully defrosted, you can begin preparing it for roasting. For something utterly mouthwatering, read our top tips on how to stuff your Christmas turkey compiled by a top Michelin star chef. Also don't forget to calculate how long your turkey will need to roast and leave spare time for resting.

DEFROST BETTER MEAT WITH FARMISON

This Christmas, Farmison is bringing better meat to the nation's table. We are committed to sustainability and are proud to be industry leaders in traceability. This means that every pig in blanket or christmas beef wellington can be traced back to the free range pork or grass fed beef which it came from. Delivered straight to your door, exceptional dining at home couldn't be easier. Show your family and friends the love they deserve by sharing some of Farmison's top quality British meat with them this Christmas.