How Long Can You Keep a Thawed Turkey in the Refrigerator Before Cooking?
Thawing frozen food items is a quite common and daily life practice. It is necessary to keep the defrosted food safe in order to avoid the growth of any harmful bacterial microorganisms on the outer surface of the food.
When you thaw a frozen product the outer surface of food warms up and it is possible that dangerous microorganisms will quickly start growing over the surface of the food. Therefore, it is vital to protect and safely thaw the frozen food so that it can be reused afterward.
There are four suitable ways to defrost the food safely i.e., in the refrigerator, under cold running water, in the microwave, or during the cooking itself. The choice of selection depends upon your convenience but the most appropriate one is to thaw food in the refrigerator.
You can buy the turkey and keep it frozen in the refrigerator for as long as you decide to thaw it for cooking. You can follow the following four methods for thawing the turkey:
1. Thawing in Microwave
This option is best if you are planning to cook the turkey immediately after defrosting. Just check out the microwave ovens manufacturer manual beforehand in order to find out the required time per pound and the power level at which it should operate.
Take out the frozen turkey and after removing the outside wrap keep it in a microwave-safe dish to avoid any juice leakage. Defrosting the food in the microwave makes it partially cooked and warm so it is necessary to use it immediately for preventing the growth of any hazardous bacteria.
2. Refrigerator Thawing
You need to preplan at least 24 hours ahead for thawing the turkey in the refrigerator. For thawing approximately four to five pounds of turkey in the refrigerator you need to allow a time span of at least 24 hours.
A properly thawed turkey can stay safe in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Place the frozen turkey in a bowl so that the juices might not drip everywhere inside the refrigerator. There is some preferred interval of times depending upon the quantity of frozen turkey.
Around four to twelve pounds of turkey needs a thawing time of one to three days in the refrigerator, twelve to sixteen pounds three to four days, sixteen to twenty pounds four to five days whereas twenty to twenty-four pounds requires five to six days of refrigerator thawing time.
Refrigerator thawing must always be done preferably at 40 degrees F (4.4 degrees C). If required, a thawed turkey can be refrozen with only a slight drawback of a decrease in its quality.
3. Thawing Under Cold Water
This method too shall be opted only if you plan to cook immediately after thawing and don’t need to refreeze it. Initially make sure that the frozen turkey is in a safe waterproof wrapping so that water doesn’t get absorbed and the product isn’t contaminated. Fill a deep surface bowl from cold tap water and submerge the properly covered turkey in it.
Keep on changing the water after every half an hour until the turkey is thawed completely. There are also some specified intervals for thawing in cold water too. Around four to twelve pounds of frozen turkey needs a thawing time of two to six hours in the cold water, twelve to sixteen pounds six to eight hours, sixteen to twenty pounds eight to ten hours whereas twenty to twenty-four pounds requires ten to twelve hours of cold-water thawing time.
In this case, the thawed turkey must be cooked immediately after removing the giblets otherwise the meat would get contaminated and would be of no use. A better option is to refreeze the meat from the cooked turkey.
(Any sort of meat must never be thawed under hot water as the outer layer of food will get exposed to bacteria-breeding temperature this way and it would be really dangerous to consume such food).
A fairly simple way out is to directly thaw a turkey while cooking. You just need to unwrap the frozen turkey and directly put it on the stove. It would easily get defrosted during the cooking process. You can refreeze the cooked meat afterward.
A couple of alternate options could be roasting the turkey or storing the leftover meat from the cooked turkey which is comparatively safer to consume later.
4. Baking / Roasting Turkey
One can choose to bake both stuffed or unstuffed turkey. Firstly, you need to set your oven temperature at almost around 325-degree F. Place the turkey on the oven grill in a shallow pan.
For stuffed turkey, it is better to fill in the cavities before roasting. You can check the internal temperature of stuffing in the center which should be at least 165 degrees F as measured from a food thermometer. After some time check the percentage of cooked turkey by inserting a food thermometer.
The temperature of the thickest part of the thigh must have reached 165 degrees F. Similarly, a cooked turkey breast must indicate a temperature of 165 degrees F when measured from a food thermometer.
Let the cooked turkey rest for at least fifteen to twenty minutes after which you can dish it out easily. Also, remove the stuffing from the cavities alongside. However, there are certain time schedules that may be followed for roasting both stuffed and unstuffed turkeys.
In the case of unstuffed turkey four to eight pounds meat requires a time interval of 1.5 to 3.5 hours to cook, eight to twelve pounds 2.5 to 3 hours, twelve to fourteen pounds 3 to 3.5 hours, fourteen to eighteen pounds 3.5 to 4.5 hours while eighteen to twenty-four pounds requires 4.5 to 5 hours to cook completely.
Similarly, for stuffed turkey four to eight pounds meat requires a time span of 2.5 to 3.5 hours to cook, eight to twelve pounds 3 to 3.5 hours, twelve to fourteen pounds 3.5 to 4 hours, fourteen to eighteen pounds 4 to 4.5 hours while eighteen to twenty-four pounds requires 4.5 to 5.5 hours to cook completely.
Also read: Best Insulated Grocery Bag
5. Storing the Leftover Meat from Cooked Turkey
You can always choose to refreeze the leftover cooked turkey. Make small segments of cooked meat and refrigerate it in any food container. This frozen leftover can then be reheated and consumed later within three to four days.