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3 ways to thaw your turkey in time for Thanksgiving

Defrosting a turkey isn't hard. It just takes some time.

We're closing in on Thanksgiving, which means there's probably a frozen turkey jammed into your freezer or waiting for you in a grocery store deep-freeze. Either way, it's time to start thinking about how you're going to defrost the bird in time for the big day.


It's pretty easy to thaw a turkey; you just need time. Here are three different ways you can safely defrost a turkey, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Make sure you know your turkey's weight, which will determine how long it will take to thaw.

Use your refrigerator

This method is the most time-consuming option: The USDA says you need to allow 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, which means you'd need to set aside a few days for a large bird. But this method requires the least amount of effort. All you have to do is put your turkey in a container to catch drips and let it hang out in the refrigerator. 

Read more: How and why (or not) to brine a turkey

I thawed this turkey in cold water.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Defrost the turkey in cold water

Get ready to put in some work if you use this technique to thaw your turkey. Put the turkey in a leak-proof bag and put it in cold tap water. The USDA recommends that you change out your water every 30 minutes. I've found that it's easiest to defrost your turkey in a big cooler that has a drink spigot. This lets you easily empty the water into the sink, and you can just remove the top and pour in fresh water. It will take about 30 minutes per pound to completely thaw your turkey.

It takes a little work to go from frozen turkey to a tasty main course.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Low on time? Turn to your microwave

The USDA says that you can defrost your turkey in the microwave, as long as you follow the product instructions and cook it immediately after you thaw it. I'd be weary to rely on a microwave to defrost such a large piece of meat, but you could give this a try if you're desperate.

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