No Thanksgiving table is complete without a big, delicious turkey roasted to golden perfection. I dream about cooking the most wonderful dinner for my family and, inevitably, forget to buy my turkey until a day or two before the big day. Everyone knows cooking a frozen turkey isn't safe and that it's too late to defrost a frozen turkey that you buy the day before Thanksgiving.

Or is it?

By the way, the USDA is on standby for Thanksgiving and other food emergencies. Keep this information handy.

USDA hotline
Courtesy USDA

MYTH #1-- You can't cook a frozen turkey.

Yes, you can! For those of you who are much better planners than I am, the USDA outlines on its website how to properly and safely defrost your bird.

Never thaw your turkey in hot water or leave it on a countertop. There are three ways to safely thaw a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave.


  • Refrigerator thawing: Turkey can be safely thawed in a refrigerator to allow for slow and safe thawing. When thawing in a refrigerator, allow roughly 24 hours for every four to five pounds of turkey. After thawing, a turkey is safe in a refrigerator for one to two days.
  • Cold water thawing: The cold water thawing method will thaw your turkey faster but will require more attention. When thawing in a cold-water bath, allow 30 minutes per pound and submerge the turkey in its original wrapping to avoid cross-contamination. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. The turkey must be cooked immediately after thawing.
  • Microwave thawing: To thaw a turkey that fits in the microwave, follow manufacturer’s recommendations. Cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during the thawing process.

If you have a microwave big enough to thaw a whole turkey, I'd pay money to see that.

For all you prepared people out there, you should thaw your turkey for 24 hours per four to five pounds. The defrosted turkey stays good in the refrigerator for about two days.

Buying a frozen turkey too late to thaw won't ruin your Thanksgiving. I had no idea that cooking a frozen turkey is perfectly safe. You will need to add patience to your recipe, though, because it takes longer to cook. The USDA explains:

... it will take at least 50 percent longer to fully cook.

A plethora of trusted sources have published article about how to roast a frozen turkey. They do suggest that you not try to roast it, and you DO NOT attempt frying a frozen turkey. We've all seen those videos, and it never turns out well for the chef.

Taking the giblets out of a frozen bird will be next to impossible, so all the sites talk about putting it in the oven for about 30-60 minutes until it's soft enough to go in and grab those suckers.

Whether you defrosted your turkey or it's as solid as a cinder block, make sure to have a meat thermometer so you know when the turkey is cooked all the way to the core, which leads to the second myth.

MYTH #2-- My turkey is cooked if the little button pops up.

Nope. The internal temperature needs to be at 165 degrees in the thickest parts of the bird. That's where the handy-dandy meat thermometer come in.

USDA turkey temps
Courtesy USDA

MYTH #3-- Just stick the whole turkey in the fridge when you're done with it.

Another nope. The USDA explains that the turkey won't cool evenly, and that creates a breeding ground for all the nasties that make you sick. Carve it up and store it in plastic bags.

MYTH #4-- Eating turkey makes you sleepy.

The science indicates that, while turkey does contain tryptophan, you won't consume enough to put you to sleep. My Thanksgiving nap will always and forevermore be blamed on the turkey. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

When to Start Thawing Your Thanksgiving Turkey in Cold Water

If you plan on thawing out your Thanksgiving Turkey in cold water for 2023. Here's how long it should take to completely thaw out.

Gallery Credit: Travis Sams

Turkeys, Turkeys, Turkeys

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