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USDA: Meat, Poultry Hotline Offers Turkey Thawing Tips Ahead of Thanksgiving

New Jersey

AHABy: Richard L. Smith 

As Thanksgiving approaches, the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline gears up for its busiest time of the year, providing valuable guidance on food safety to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday meal.

Food safety specialists are ready to answer calls, chats, and emails, even on Thanksgiving Day, to assist households in making sure their Thanksgiving feast is prepared safely.

One of the most commonly asked questions this season is, "How do you properly thaw a turkey?"

The USDA offers two safe ways to thaw a turkey: refrigerator or cold water.

1. Refrigerator Thawing: Allow approximately 24 hours for every four to five pounds of turkey weight for thawing in the refrigerator. For example, a 15-pound turkey will require three days to thaw in your refrigerator. Once fully thawed, the turkey can remain in the refrigerator for one or two days before cooking.

2. Cold Water Thawing: Submerge the turkey in its original wrapper in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it has thawed.

It is important to note that thawing a frozen turkey on the kitchen counter or in a garage during the winter (a common misconception) is not safe.

Leaving any frozen meat or poultry package out at room temperature for more than two hours is dangerous. Even if the center of the package remains frozen, the outer layer of food is within the "Danger Zone" between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, where foodborne bacteria can multiply rapidly.

For additional turkey thawing tips and information on safe food handling, refer to the USDA's fact sheet and the latest USDA study on safe food handling and thorough handwashing.

If you have any food safety questions or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out to the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).

You can also chat live with a food safety specialist at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. On Thanksgiving Day, the hotline will be available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time.

Stay informed about food safety and access additional resources by visiting USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) website at You can also follow FSIS on Twitter at @usdafoodsafety or in Spanish at @usdafoodsafe_es for the latest updates and tips.