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Nashville, Ark. - Chances are the turkey you will purchase for Thanksgiving will be
frozen. To keep your turkey out of the temperature danger zone during “the big thaw,”
precautions must be taken.
If a turkey is frozen, it is safe indefinitely to eat, however quality is lost the
longer it stays frozen. It is when it begins to thaw that bacteria can begin to grow.
Despite what many might think, a package of frozen meat or poultry left thawing on
the counter more than 2 hours is NOT at a safe temperature. Even though the center
of the package may still be frozen, the outer layer of the food is in the “temperature
danger zone,” between 40 and 140˚F, which is a temperature where food borne bacteria
There are only three ways to safely thaw your turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold
water, and in the microwave oven. No other thawing method will assure that your turkey
will remain safe to eat.
Food safety begins immediately at the grocery store checkout. Take the frozen turkey
home and store it in the freezer, or refrigerator (if you want to begin thawing).
Frozen turkeys should not be left on the back porch, in the car trunk, in the basement,
or any place else where temperatures cannot be constantly monitored or assured.
When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator, plan ahead. Allow approximately 24 hours
for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40˚F or below. Some areas of a refrigerator
may keep the food colder than others. A turkey placed in the coldest part will require
longer defrosting time. In other words, in the refrigerator, a 4-to-12-pound bird
would take 1 to 3 days to thaw, 12-to-16-pound bird would take 3 to 4 days, 16 to
20 pounds would take 4 to 5 days, and a 20-to-24-pound bird would take 5 to 6 days
to thaw. You should start thawing in the refrigerator this weekend.
A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking. If
something happens and you do not immediately get to cook your bird, meats thawed in
the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there will be some loss
To safely thaw your turkey in cold water, allow about 30 minutes per pound. First,
be sure the food is in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria
from the surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Tissues can also
absorb water like a sponge, resulting in a watery product.
Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. You must change the water every 30
minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.
Thawing this way will take 2 to 6 hours for 4-to-12-pound bird, 6 to 8 hours for a
12-to-16-pound bird, 8 to 10 hours for a 16-to-20-pound bird, and 10 to 12 hours for
a 20-to-24-pound bird. Unlike the turkey thawed in the refrigerator, a turkey thawed
by the cold-water method should be cooked immediately. After cooking, meat from the
turkey can be refrozen.
If you forgot to allow ample time to thaw your turkey, you can do it in the microwave.
Follow the microwave oven manufacturer’s instruction when defrosting a turkey. Plan
to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm
and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended
because any bacteria present will not have been destroyed. A turkey thawed in the
microwave must be cooked before refreezing.
For more information of thawing foods safely, contact the Howard County Extension
Office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.
You may also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to send you some information on food safety. You can also contact
the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline to answer any of your holiday food safety questions.
You may contact them via their website or by telephone at 1-888-674-6854.
This recipe is great for your holiday meal. It is extremely easy to prepare and tastes
great! This recipe is part of the Right Bite Cooking School, a diabetic cooking school
offered through the Cooperative Extension Service. If you would like to participate
in cooking programs, contact me at 870-845-7517. I’ll be glad to put your name on
a mailing list to keep you informed of scheduled programs.
1 head of lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
2 medium apples, sliced
½ cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup green onion, sliced
¾ cup vinaigrette dressing
Yield: 8 Servings
By Jean Ince Howard County Extension Agent - Staff ChairThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852 (870) 845-7517 email@example.com