How To Thaw a Turkey Overnight: 3 Easy Methods


The holiday season is finally here! So is our favorite Thanksgiving Day.

There is always a different vibe around this time. The season is beautiful, while there is magic in the air and turkey on the table! However, cooking a turkey is no easy job.

You have to thaw the bird well before cooking to bring a delicious dish to the gathering. So how do you thaw Turkey overnight?

Common methods to thaw a turkey include putting it on a countertop, immersing in cold water, and refrigeration.

Thawing also depends on the weight of the bird. Ideally, the higher the weight, the longer it takes for the entire turkey to thaw completely. And as per the method, the time changes for defrosting!

Let’s get started with a detailed guide on successfully thawing a turkey overnight!

Also Check: Can You Brine A Frozen Turkey?

How Do You Thaw a Turkey Overnight?

Thawing a turkey is crucial for uniform cooking. Therefore, let’s have a closer look at different methods to thaw a turkey overnight. 

Method 1: Thawing on the countertop

Thawing any frozen food is easiest when done on countertops. Turkey takes a relatively longer time than most frozen foods and hence, leave it overnight to get uniform thawing. 

The steps to thaw a turkey on the countertop are:

  • Take the turkey out of the freezer. 
  • Place them on your kitchen countertop with a tray underneath the packaging. 
  • The tray helps collect the water and juices flowing out the poultry. 
  • You can leave it overnight for a thawed bird. 

Things to consider while thawing over a countertop

  • Ideally, room temperature is not the safest method for thawing. The reason is the formation of bacteria on raw poultry at a warm temperature.
  • If you have no other option, go for thawing in your kitchen. However, try to maintain the room temperature to a minimum. Change the thermostat to keep your kitchen cool.
  • Alternatively, choose a room where the temperature drops substantially during the night in your house.
  • Also, if possible, use ice bags near the plate to keep the temperature down.

Perks of thawing over a countertop

The biggest advantage would be simplicity. You do not have to create any particular setup for thawing. Also, it is handy for cooking the next morning.  

Read: Do You Cook A Turkey At 325 Or 350?

Method 2: Thawing in the refrigerator

This is the most successful method with no chances of mistakes. Safety is also guaranteed when following these steps.

Overnight thawing is possible when the turkey is less than 4 pounds. Heavier turkeys require a longer time, sometimes even days.

Here are the steps to thaw a turkey in the refrigerator:

  • Take a large plate or vessel.
  • Place the entire turkey intact with the packaging from the store.
  • Keep the platter inside the refrigerator for thawing.
  • If the turkey is just 2 pounds, it can thaw overnight.

Things to consider while thawing in a refrigerator

  • You require a plate or container to catch the fluids released from the turkey while thawing.
  • If there are any herbs and seasonings added to the turkey, thawing time might be longer.
  • You will need a lot of space in the fridge for this process, so make sure to clear out items before thawing.

Perks of refrigerator thawing

Poultry starts developing bacteria once the thawing process begins. Hence, thawing in a fridge is a safe option because turkeys defrost at a safe and uniform temperature.

This prevents the growth of any bacteria on it, making it hygienic for cooking!

Method 3: Thawing using cold water

Another plausible method for thawing turkeys is by placing them in a pot of cold water. 

Like the previous method, the time required for thawing depends on the weight of the turkey. However, compared to the previous one, it is faster and yields good results.

Steps to thaw turkey using cold water include:

  • Consider using your sink or a large container.
  • Fill the sink or container with cold water.
  • Place the turkey with the plastic packaging inside.
  • Change the water every 30 minutes to have consistent defrosting.

Also check: How To Know If a Turkey Is Done Without a Thermometer

Things to consider while thawing using cold water

  • It is a strenuous job. You have to keep changing the water for every half hour.
  • Overnight thawing is not possible in the case of heavy birds. Only if the bird is small can you thaw it immediately. Choose to thaw big-sized turkeys through the day.
  • If you find the turkey not immersing in the water fully, keep some weight on the packaging.
  • The reason for changing the water is to prevent the formation of bacteria. Once the water reaches room temperature, the growth of bacteria begins. Hence, change it with cold water only.
  • Keep the temperature of the water below 104°F always.

Perks of cold water thawing

This is the fastest method among the safe ways to thaw a turkey. For thawing a 4-pound turkey, you need just 2 hours. Similarly, do the math!

If the turkey is big, try thawing using both methods to have an even and quick thawing. 

Tips For Thawing Turkey Overnight


All the above methods help thaw turkey well. Nevertheless, you have to take care of a few tips before choosing the technique.

  • If possible, reduce the room temperature to a minimum while thawing on the countertop. You can reduce the growth of bacteria.
  • Your turkey will thaw in your open kitchen at around 2 hours for every 2 pounds of turkey. Hence, consider the time while thawing at room temperature.
  • Cooking might remove any bacteria formed on the turkey. Although, try to thaw in a cold environment to prevent growth.
  • Make sure that the rooms chosen for overnight thawing are not near any fireplaces or heating devices.
  • When trying to thaw using refrigerator or cold water, keep the packaging intact to prevent water from seeping into the turkey.
  • Also, avoid last-minute cooking as thawing hurriedly gives uneven texture. Your dish might not be tasty and uniform.

While the countertop method is easy, choose to do it with extra caution to prevent the growth of unwanted bacteria. Follow the tips above to have a safe Thanksgiving!

Related Questions  

Will turkey thaw out overnight?

Turkey will thaw overnight. However, you have to be wary of any food-borne diseases due to the formation of bacteria on the poultry.

Room temperature is a perfect environment for the disease-causing pathogens to grow. 

How can I speed up thawing a turkey?

You can speed up the process of thawing a turkey with the help of the cold water method. Put the bird with the covering in a sink or big vessel filled with cold water. Although, remember to change the water every half hour. 

Is it OK to defrost a turkey at room temperature?

It is NOT OK to defrost a turkey at room temperature. Bacteria can thrive well when kept in a counter overnight or throughout the day.

Room temperature will increase and provide an optimal environment for bacteria to grow. So, you will have a thawed turkey with bad bacteria growing on it.

How do you thaw a turkey in the refrigerator?

Put the turkey with casings on a large platter into the fridge. Depending on the weight, the time taken will vary. On average, to thaw a 4-pound turkey takes an entire day inside the fridge.

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