Don’t have a Thanksgiving meltdown: Thaw your bird safely

Even though you may have never gotten sick, grandma’s method of defrosting a turkey in the sink is not safe!

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OSF HealthCare Ashley Simper, MS, RD, LDN, Manager of Dietetic Services, recommends these tips to help you defrost your holiday bird safely:

  • Keep your turkey in the freezer until you are ready to thaw it. Don’t store it in the garage, trunk or on the deck.  You don’t know what could get into it and it’s harder to make sure the temperature stays below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • When ready to thaw, you can use several methods.
    • Refrigerator: Place the turkey in a large dish on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.  This will prevent the raw turkey juices from ending up all over your fridge and other foods.  Allow 24 hours of thaw time for every 4-5 pounds of turkey.  Even after thawed, it can stay in the fridge an additional 1-2 days before cooking.
    • Cold Water: Wrap turkey in large bag, securing the top tightly to not allow water inside. Submerge in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes until thawed. Allowing 30 minutes of thaw time for every 1 pound of turkey. Cook immediately after thawing.
    • Microwave: If your microwave is big enough, place the bird in a microwave safe dish and place in microwave.  Follow the microwave manufacturer’s directions for thawing.  Cook immediately after thawing.
  • Remember the DANGER ZONE for foods is between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit.  When perishable food sits out for longer than 2 hours in the danger zone, it is at a greater risk of developing food-borne bacteria, which can make you and your whole family sick on Thanksgiving.Keeping your turkey in the sink not only increases the chances of it staying in the danger zone for too long, but it can also contaminate the whole sink with raw turkey juices.
  • Use a thermometer and cook your turkey to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it sit for 20 minutes before carving. This not only guarantees a juicier turkey, but also will make the carving easier.

For more tips on healthy eating, visit

Last Updated: February 9, 2022

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About Author: Katie Whitt

Katie Whitt is a marketing and communications coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since January 2016. Originally from Valparaiso, Indiana, she came to Peoria to earn her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Bradley University. Before joining OSF, she worked as a copy editor for both the Peoria Journal Star and The Bloomington Pantagraph.

In her spare time, Katie enjoys traveling, reading anything she can get her hands on and spending shameful amounts of time watching Netflix. She justifies her couch time with kickboxing and running.

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Categories: Diet & Exercise