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Turkey Defrost Time Calculator

Created by Maria Kluziak
Reviewed by Dominik Czernia, PhD and Jack Bowater
Last updated: Jun 05, 2023

This turkey defrost time calculator is the perfect tool for those of you who like to plan ahead! With its help, you'll certainly be prepared for your Thanksgiving dinner 🦃.

Use the turkey defrost time calculator to estimate how long it takes to thaw a turkey, and plan the rest of your time accordingly! Read on to find out the typical turkey thawing times, get some advice on how to thaw a turkey safely, and learn some helpful facts and tips that will aid you with defrosting meat and other foods in a healthy and effective way.

Calculating turkey thaw time

If you're wondering how this turkey thawing time calculator works, we're happy to explain. As you can see, using it is quite simple - all you need to do is choose the defrosting method and input the weight of your frozen turkey. Depending on the method, the calculator uses one of the two following rules to figure out how long to defrost a turkey for:

Turkey thawing methods

Defrosting in cold water: 30 minutes per a pound (0.5 kg) of meat.

In the case of cold water, you need 30 minutes of defrosting time for every pound (0.5 kg) of the meat's weight:

turkey thawing time = weight in pounds * 30 minutes.

The water's temperature will change with time, so you must make sure it doesn't get lukewarm to avoid the meat going bad. Remember to change the water every 30 minutes

Defrosting in a fridge: 1 day per every 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of meat.

We tend to think that the fridge is only suitable for chilling, but did you know that it can do the opposite as well? Defrosting in the refrigerator takes a lot longer than in cold water, so it's definitely something that requires you to plan ahead. Still, it's the way we recommend, as it's the easiest and the safest method. Thawing in the fridge takes a day (24 hours) per every 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of meat. We can simplify this to ¼ of a day (6 hours) per pound (0.5 kg). If we wanted to turn this into an equation, we would get:

turkey thawing time = weight in pounds * ¼ of a day .

The turkey defrost time calculator lets you swap between any unit of time, so you don't have to worry working out what 0.125 of an hour is - simply pick a different unit of time in the drop-down menu to the right of the field!

Please note that since turkey is very popular in the United States, this turkey defrost time calculator uses the pounds formula. If you want to see how it corresponds to the metric system, feel free to use our weight converter to see how long to defrost a turkey when you know its weight in kilos rather than pounds.

Need some more holiday calculators? We've got you covered! Among others, you can check out:

The "dos" of defrosting meat

"How long does it take to thaw a turkey?" is not the only question worth answering. You should also ask yourself "How can I thaw my turkey safely?" Here are some meat defrosting tips and pointers that you should always keep in mind!

Defrosting in the fridge:

  • Keep the turkey in its original wrapping;
  • Keep the thawing turkey in a baking dish with relatively high sides, to prevent the water and juices from dripping all over the fridge and contaminating other food. In the same vein, thaw your turkey as close to the bottom of your fridge as possible;
  • If you're planning to brine your turkey, you can safely start when it's still partially frozen; and
  • A fully thawed turkey can stay in the fridge for up to two full days!

Defrosting in cold water:

  • Keep the turkey in its original wrapping and then cover it with a leak-proof bag;
  • Make sure the turkey is fully submerged. You might need to weigh it down with a plate or a few cans to do so;
  • Remember to change the water every 30 minutes❗ This is extremely important. When the water's temperature rises above a certain threshold, dangerous bacteria might start multiplying in the meat, increasing the risk of food poisoning. To avoid this, you need to keep changing the water - every half an hour will do just fine to prevent the bacteria from growing; and
  • Move the meat around slightly every time you change the water.

The "don'ts" of defrosting meat

You should never let your turkey thaw at room temperature (roughly 40-100°F / 4-38°C). Some bacteria that can cause severe food poisoning start multiplying once it gets warmer than 40°F/4°C. This is precisely why, while defrosting in the sink, it's essential to change the water every 30 minutes❗ Remember never to:

  • Let your meat thaw on the counter;
  • Attempt defrosting in warm water; or
  • Speed up the thawing process with inadequate equipment, such as hair dryers.

All of these activities put the meat at risk of going bad, and can potentially give you food poisoning. Remember that the rules don't only apply to turkey. Whether you want to defrost poultry, ham, taco meat or any other kind of meat, you should still conform to those rules.

How to thaw a turkey if you're running short on time?

Our turkey defrost time calculator covers the two most popular, safest methods of defrosting meat. Unfortunately, neither of them are particularly fast. You might be wondering if there's anything at all you can do to save face when you forgot to get your turkey out of the freezer in time?

Luckily, yes! One way to safely cut down on turkey thawing time is using the microwave. Our calculator does not include the option, as it's practically impossible to set up one equation telling you how long does it take to thaw a turkey in a microwave - it all comes down to the microwave's settings. In general, it should take about an hour, but you need to refer to your microwave's manual if you want more precise information. What matters is that ✔️ it is safe to defrost your meat in a microwave.

But what if you don't have a microwave, or if your turkey won't fit in it? Don't worry - you can put frozen or partially thawed turkey in the oven. It will likely take longer but ✔️ it is safe to cook a frozen turkey if you don't have the time to let it thaw. Here is a detailed description of how to do it.

Maria Kluziak
Defrosting method 🧊
Cold water
Turkey size 🦃
Thawing time ⏲️
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