How to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey (and what to do if you forget)

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by By J.M. HIRSCH / The Associated Press

kvue.com

Posted on November 24, 2008 at 9:03 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 21 at 3:36 PM

Thanksgiving is days away, but if you are in possession of a frozen turkey, you may need to start thawing it now. A big bird, 20 to 24 pounds, takes five to six days to thaw in the refrigerator. Using the cold-water method, which involves changing the water every half-hour or so, will take 10 to 12 hours.

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Still, if you find yourself on Thursday morning with a still-frozen bird, there are all manner of tricks for speeding up the thawing and roasting of your turkey. Cutting corners isn't recommended by the National Turkey Federation. But for those of us willing to risk it, read on:

The refrigerator is the best way to thaw a frozen turkey. An 8- to 12-pound bird will take about two days. To do it in four to six hours, cover the frozen turkey (don't unwrap it) with cold water in a sink. Change the water every 30 minutes.

Cook the turkey in a browning bag (available at most grocers). These trap heat close to the bird and can cut cooking time by 1 hours (depending on bird size), says Frank Terranova, a culinary instructor at Johnson & Wales University.

If you don't have a bag, the editors at Bon Appetit magazine suggest tenting the turkey with foil after the first 30 minutes of roasting to get the same effect.

Don't stuff the turkey, says Leah Holzel of Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine. Unstuffed turkeys can cook as much as 40 minutes faster. Instead, cook the stuffing in a casserole dish.

Don't crowd the oven, says Sandy Gluck, food editor at Everyday Food magazine. Food cooks more slowly in a full oven. Instead, choose sides that can be prepared in advance, then reheated in the oven while the turkey rests.

Jump-start the cooking by roasting the turkey at 450 F for the first 30 minutes, then reducing it to the temperature called for by the recipe for the remaining time (usually 325 F), say the editors at Bon Appetit magazine.

If you don't care about presentation, cut the turkey in half (or have your butcher do it) before roasting, says Mr. Terranova.

With the same presentation caveat, Ms. Holzel says to consider separating the legs and thighs from the breast before roasting. This gets the heat to all parts of the turkey faster.

Don't wait until the turkey is done to make the gravy. Instead, Ms. Gluck says use the giblets, canned broth and the same seasonings used on the bird to prep the gravy early, then enhance it with some of the pan drippings when the turkey is done.

Avoid basting the bird, say the editors at Bon Appetit magazine. The frequent opening of the oven lowers the temperature, requiring longer roasting.

Thawing times

You can thaw the holiday bird in the refrigerator if you have time, or speed things up by submerging it in cold water that you change every 30 minutes, according to the USDA. Do not thaw the turkey on the counter at room temperature. If thawing in the refrigerator, place the turkey on a tray or pan to contain any liquid that may drip. Here are some guidelines.

IN THE REFRIGERATOR (about 24 hours per 4 pounds):

8-12 pounds: 2-3 days

12-16 pounds: 3-4 days

16-20 pounds: 4-5 days

20-24 pounds: 5-6 days

IN COLD WATER (about 30 minutes per pound):

8-12 pounds: 4-6 hours

12-16 pounds: 6-8 hours

16-20 pounds: 8-10 hours

20-24 pounds: 10-12 hours

Source: www.fsis.usda.gov Chicago Tribune

What do you need to know? Check dallasnews.com/thanksgiving for details on:

How to fry a turkey safely

How to brine a whole turkey or just the breast

The right wines for smoked turkey

Where to buy a Greenberg smoked turkey

Holiday hot lines

Recipes to make ahead and freeze

Plus, money-saving tips and more

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