Partially Frozen Turkey?

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If you are landing on this page on Thanksgiving morning after discovering a partially frozen turkey, this advice is for you. Take a deep breath, it’s going to be alright.

Put your icy turkey in a large plastic bag (food grade, think crockpot liner or oven bag). If the turkey is still in its original, unopened packaging, you don’t have to put it in a bag. Just get that frozen turkey under cool water in a large container ASAP.

If you do not have any large, food-grade plastic bags and you already unwrapped your still-frozen turkey, well now we have to get creative. You will still be able to get dinner on the table.

Break out your cling wrap and wrap that turkey up. Once your turkey has been wrapped in a layer of cling wrap, put it in a trash can liner and then use the water bath method to rapidly finish thawing your turkey. The plastic wrap will prevent the plastic that isn’t food safe from touching your turkey.

NOTE: Don’t leave your turkey in the trash bag any longer than necessary. This is not a perfect set-up and the trash bag is not food safe, liquid from your thawing turkey COULD be leaking from your saran wrapped turkey out into the bag and then back to the turkey. (Not super likely, but let’s play it super safe, OK? OK.)

The full explanation of how to use the water-bath method to thaw your turkey is here. (click)

If your turkey is mostly thawed, that is just fine. You can still use the water-bath method, and the only difference is you will not need the full 20 minutes a pound. Keep checking it every 20 minutes until the turkey is fully thawed.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. You’ve got this.

****END UPDATE****

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I bought a fresh turkey yesterday so that I don’t have to deal with the thawing issue. Well, after handing it to my husband once I got home, he then put it in our deep freezer! I realized this at 4 am, so I ran to the garage and pulled it out. It seems pretty frozen.

It’s now in the fridge, but I’m not sure what to do since I can’t tell if it’s frozen solid or only partially frozen.

Do you know how long it takes to freeze a turkey solid? My turkey is 14lbs. I guess my only option would be to thaw the turkey out in cold water since I don’t have enough time to do it in the fridge.


Frazzled in Frampton

Heather says:

You are on the right track choosing to thaw your turkey with the water bath method. I don’t know exactly how long your turkey was in the deep freeze, but I’m betting it was long enough to fully freeze unless you were out shopping late in the evening.

Stick to the usual guideline of water bath thawing, which is 20 minutes per pound. After 5 hours, go ahead and put the thawed turkey in the refrigerator, where it will be just fine to cook on Thanksgiving day.

Isn’t it frustrating when our best efforts are foiled by the well-meaning? My kids do this to me all the time when I buy a larger cut of meat that I intend to use for the next day’s meal. Their hearts are in the right place. . . that’s why I keep them.

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4 thoughts on “Partially Frozen Turkey?”

  1. I have a 20 lb turkey to my dismay, I forgot to dethaw it! It will be dethaw if three days before thanksgiving in the refrigerator, but I’m afraid it won’t be long enough. I was told that thawing in cold water without water changes every 15-20 mintues will give it salmonella, even in cold water. Since it’s gonna take hours to do, would it be okay to begin dethawing it in cold water on the Wednesday evening before and once dethawed places back into the fridge until the next day?

  2. Thank you for this answer! I was concerned wether or not I could thaw my partially frozen turkey in cold water the day before Thanksgiving and store it in the fridge till the next day. I’m very happy to know I can! I’ve read to cook it immediately after cold water thawing, which made no sence. If safely thawed this way it will be in the safe temp zone, so why not be able to put it in the fridge after? It will essentially be at the same temperature. Again thanks for your reply!


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