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Here's how long it takes to thaw a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner

  • It can take multiple days to thaw a whole turkey.
  • If you leave the turkey in a refrigerator that's opened regularly, you need one day of thawing for every four pounds of turkey.
  • Thawing will take longer if you keep the turkey in a fridge that's never opened.
  • If you're pressed for time, you can cold water thaw your turkey, which involves thawing it in a bath of cold water in a sink.
  • This method reduces thawing time to 30 minutes per pound.


Planning for Thanksgiving dinner can be tough.

There's a lot to think about — like how much turkey to buy and when to start cooking each dish.

But what sometimes slips people's minds is that your turkey needs some prep even before you can start seasoning or cooking it. It needs to thaw.

Depending on how big a turkey you buy, your turkey might need multiple days to defrost. According to the experts who run Butterball's Turkey Talk Line, you need one day of thawing for every four pounds of turkey.

And that's if you thaw the turkey in a refrigerator that's opened regularly. If you have it in a fridge that no one ever opens, it's going to take a little bit longer.

Cold Water Thawing Turkey.JPG

If you don't have days to spare, the experts recommend cold water thawing.

This method drastically reduces the thaw time to just 30 minutes per pound, and it's really easy to do.

Just put your whole turkey — in its packaging — in a sink filled with cold water. The water doesn't have to be any specific temperature; just turn your tap to cold. You should, however, change the water every 30 minutes, the experts say.

If you're only slightly pressed for time, you can use a combination of both methods. 

SEE ALSO: 10 dishes you should never make on Thanksgiving

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