• Most turkey products should be thawed before cooking. Instruct your staff to plan ahead and to properly thaw frozen whole turkeys and turkey parts. The cooking times and quality of the finished product can vary greatly if not thawed first. Some exceptions are diced or pulled turkey, which are used in the frozen state or tempered briefly in the refrigerator before use. Also, fully cooked roasts and rolls may be reheated from the frozen state.

    In general, allow about 24 hours thawing time for every 4 to 5 pounds of whole body turkey and other large pieces of turkey.

    Whole body turkey

    Follow these guidelines for thawing:
    • Remove turkeys from shipping carton.
    • Leave in original plastic wrapping and place in shallow pans with racks so air can circulate and turkeys are not sitting in drippings. The original wrappings also help protect the turkey from environmental contamination during thawing.
    • Within 15 minutes of removal from shipping cartons, move turkeys (on racks or pans) into refrigerator at 35ºF to 40ºF. Thaw until temperature of each turkey, measured with a thermometer placed in deepest part of breast, registers 38ºF.

    Safe Temperatures

    The National Turkey Federation recommends that turkey is thawed when it reaches 38ºF. For your information, the FDA Food Code recommends a temperature of 41ºF.

    This chart provides guidelines for thawing turkeys up to about 25 pounds. Larger turkeys, often used for carving presentation, will require more time.

    Sample Refrigerator Thawing Times for
    Whole Body Turkey at 35ºF to 40ºF
    Weight (lbs.) Days
    15 3
    20 4
    25 5
    Source: Turkey processors

    Turkey parts and products

    The procedures are much the same as for whole body turkeys.
    • Remove from shipping cartons.
    • Leave in original wrappings and place on racks in shallow pan. If original wrappings must be removed, cover completely with plastic wrap to help protect turkey from environmental contamination.
    • Within 15 minutes, move trays to refrigerator at 35ºF to 40ºF.
    • For large parts, such as wings, drumsticks and thighs, manipulate after a day to break apart and speed thawing.
    • Tubes of ground turkey can be sliced when partially thawed to speed the process.
    • Product is thawed when it reaches 38ºF, measured by inserting a thermometer in the thickest part of the meat.
    Sample Refrigerator Thawing Times for Turkey
    Parts & Products at 35ºF to 40ºF
    Product Days
    Breasts 2 to 3
    Thighs 2 to 3
    Wings, Drumsticks 2
    Roasts, Deli Meats 2
    Steaks, Cutlets, Slices, Chops ½ to 1
    Tenderloins 1
    Ground Turkey in Tubes 2 to 3
    Ground Turkey in Patties,
    Sausage Links and Patties
    Source: Turkey processors

Receiving & Storing
Recommended Refrigerator Thawing
Other Thawing Techniques
Storing Cooked Turkey

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