As long as the turkey is frozen, there is no danger of the meat going rancid. According to the guidelines prescribed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), turkey should be thawed or defrosted at a temperature below 40 degrees F. This is because after 40 degree F temperature, any form of harmful bacteria that may be present in the meat, begins to grow.
There are three major ways of thawing or defrosting a turkey:
i. Thawing in the refrigerator
ii. Thawing in the microwave
iii. Thawing in cold water
Thawing in the refrigerator
This is considered the best way to thaw a turkey, because the temperature inside a refrigerator will never go above 40 degree F. In order to thaw the turkey meat, one must preserve the meat in its original packing. The meat should be put in a pan, so that the drippings from the package get collected inside it. This will also prevent other food items kept inside the refrigerator from getting contaminated. The temperature inside the refrigerator should be below 40 degree F. As per government food departments, about 5 pounds of turkey meat will take approximately 24 hours to defrost. Therefore, 8-10 pound of turkey should take approximately 48 hours to thaw, while about 20 pounds of turkey will take 3-4 days to defrost. The meat should not be removed from the refrigerator while it is defrosting.
Thawing in the microwave
Before you thaw your turkey inside a microwave, always check the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding the size of the turkey that can fit inside your microwave. Large microwaves will be needed to thaw a large turkey. For this procedure, you will have to remove the packaging from the turkey meat, and place it on a oven tray. The tray will collect the drippings from the meat as it thaws. Using a microwave for thawing a turkey almost invariably results in some portions of the turkey getting cooked. However, the outer portion of the bird will remain cold and hard. It is extremely important therefore, that you start cooking the turkey immediately after it has been thawed.
Thawing in cold water
In order to use cold water for thawing turkey meat, do not remove the original packing of the meat. This is because once you pour cold water on the meat; it will get absorbed by the tissues, resulting in a watery turkey. For this procedure, you should cover the meat with cold water, which should change every 30 minutes so that the turkey remains cold. Cold water takes approximately 30 minutes to thaw about a pound of turkey. So, a five-pound turkey will take approximately 5 hours to thaw, while 10 pounds of turkey will take about 10 hours. In this case too, it is a good idea to start cooking the turkey immediately after it thaws.
In case the meat is left on the kitchen counter to thaw, make sure it is not lying outside for more than 2 hours, for the fear of the growth of harmful bacteria inside the meat.