The Quickest Way to Thaw a Turkey Breast

The Quickest Way to Thaw a Turkey Breast. (Image: ALLEKO/iStock/GettyImages)

Have you ever been ready to roast your turkey breast only to find it's still frozen? Thawing turkey breast takes time, but you can speed up the process by using different methods. A combination of speed and food safety guidelines helps you get your turkey dinner on the table on time without serving up a side of food poisoning with it.

Food Safety When Thawing Turkey Breast

No matter how you defrost turkey breast, your top priority should be food safety. Freezing keeps the turkey safe, but once the temperature of the bird starts to rise, so do the risks of food poisoning. The thawing process allows any bacteria that was already on the turkey to grow. Once you fully thaw your turkey, you should cook it within two days.

Because of the potential for bacterial growth, you should avoid certain thawing methods, including leaving the turkey breast at room temperature. You also should avoid using warm or hot water to thaw the turkey. Controlling the thawing process using safe methods helps you thaw turkey fast while preventing potentially dangerous bacteria growth.

One of the safest ways to defrost a turkey is to leave it in the refrigerator, where it stays at a controlled temperature. However, that method isn't the fastest, and if you're in a time crunch, it may not work for you. The general rule of thumb is one day of thawing for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey.

Thawing in Cold Water

The fastest way to thaw a turkey is by submerging it in cold water. Never use hot water for this process. It may seem like a faster option, but the warmer temperatures also promote bacterial growth. Leave the turkey breast in its original packaging while thawing it in water.

Choose a container that's large enough to keep the turkey breast fully submerged, such as a large bucket. Run cold water into the container to cover the bird. Change the water every 30 minutes, covering the turkey with fresh cold water to ensure it says cold enough. Check the turkey every time you change the water to see how well it's thawing.

Estimate about 30 minutes for each pound to fully thaw the turkey in water. Using the cold water method should take about four to six hours for an 8 to 12 pound bird, for example. If your turkey breast is smaller, you can expect a shorter thawing time.

Thawing in the Microwave

If you don't have time to wait for the water-thawing method, you may be able to thaw turkey fast in your microwave. Make sure your microwave is big enough to hold the turkey breast. Take the poultry out of its outer wrapping. It's a good idea to put the turkey in a microwave-safe container deep enough to catch liquids.

Consult your manual to determine how long your turkey breast needs to thaw in your microwave, as it can vary by unit. A general guideline is to defrost in the microwave for six minutes for each pound of poultry. Pause the microwave during the defrosting process to turn the turkey for more even thawing. Cook the turkey right away after thawing in the microwave.

Cooking From Frozen

Don't have time for any of the safe thawing methods? You can safely cook your turkey from a frozen state and skip the thawing process completely. This option requires a 50 percent longer cooking time, but that extra roasting is still shorter than the time it would take to thaw the turkey using any method. If your turkey is partially thawed, it still needs extra cooking time but not quite as much as a frozen-solid bird.

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