So you've got a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving.
That's pretty common because they're often the cheapest, most available option. But now you have to make it not-frozen before you roast it. And the thing to know is this: That takes a really long time.
THE BEST METHOD: in the refrigerator.
A frozen turkey will thaw at a rate of 4 lbs per day in the refrigerator.
1. Keep it in its original packaging and place it breast-side up on a baking sheet with sides so the juices don't get everywhere.
2. Put it on the lowest shelf near the back of the fridge, which is the coldest, safest place for it.
3. Use an instant-read digital meat thermometer to check the temp as it thaws. Be sure to check multiple locations on the bird; the meat will likely be colder near the bone or in the center. You want an even 40-45°F throughout the bird.
THE 2ND BEST METHOD: in cold water.
A frozen turkey will thaw at a rate of 2 lbs per hour in a cold water bath.
1. Make sure the turkey is in a sealed waterproof bag and submerge it in a cold water bath.
2. You'll need to change the water regularly to keep it cold. Check it with a thermometer regularly and if it gets to be 50°F or warmer than the coldest tap water, you need to change it.
THE EMERGENCY METHOD: in pieces.
Should you find yourself with a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving morning, you might want to try to get a "fresh" (unfrozen) turkey from the supermarket because it will save you a lot of time and frustration. If that's not an option:
1. Use the cold-water method for as many hours as you can.
2. As soon as you can remove the giblet bag from the cavity, do so. This will help speed up defrosting.
3. As soon as you can, butterfly the turkey, meaning cut out its backbone with a pair of kitchen shears. Get directions for part of this procedure at Martha Stewart. Then with a cleaver cut off the legs and thighs, then cut the thighs into chunks (you'll have to cut through the bone).
4. The turkey will thaw faster in smaller pieces — and it will also cook faster. To roast it, put all the pieces in a roasting pan with onions and sprinkle with salt then roast at 450°F for 30 minutes, then down to 325°F until the meat is at 165°F, which means it's done.
DO NOT do these things:
1. Do not try to thaw a turkey by leaving it out on a counter — this will make no one happy in the end, except all the new bacteria to whom you're giving new life.
2. Do not try to thaw a turkey on the porch — it will probably be eaten by a creature.
3. Do not try to thaw a turkey in your car trunk. You are just asking for weird trouble.
4. Do not try to thaw a pre-stuffed turkey. And don't even buy a pre-stuffed turkey to begin with.