WASHINGTON(WUSA9) - It's likely you bought one of the 233 million turkeys that grew up on a U.S. farm; it's also possible the main entree is still sitting rock solid in your freezer. While most food blogs and top chefs say you must defrost your bird days before serving, it's not practical for most of us.
Still, there's no reason to carve a tasteless turkey, or worse, one that will make you sick because it wasn't prepared properly. Here's a last-minute guide on how to safely thaw your bird.
Defrosting a turkey in cold water can melt days off the process. According to Butterball LLC, a 20-pound turkey needs five days to defrost in the refrigerator, but only 10 hours in a cold water bath. Estimate about 30 minutes per pound of frozen fowl, Butterball suggested.
Keep the poultry inside an unopened wrapper with enough cold water (below 40 degrees) to cover the turkey completely, and change the water every 30 minutes to keep it chilled.
Don't sacrifice food safety in a time crunch by thawing on the countertop, the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned.
"A package of frozen meat or poultry left thawing on the counter more than 2 hours is not at a safe temperature," according to the USDA. "Even though the center of the package may still be frozen, the outer layer of the food is in the 'Danger Zone' between 40°F and 140°F — at a temperature where food borne bacteria multiply rapidly."
Depending on the size of your microwave, there's also an option to use its defrost settings in a final sprint to the oven. Plan to cook the poultry immediately after microwave thawing because it will be hot in some areas and susceptible to bacteria, USDA said.
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