How to Defrost a Turkey in the Sink: A Quick and Safe Guide

The holidays are upon us and that means one thing: turkey time! But what if you forgot to take your turkey out of the freezer? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this guide we’ll show you how to safely defrost a turkey in the sink, so you can still enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving feast.

Why Defrosting in the Sink is a Good Option

While the refrigerator is the safest way to defrost a turkey it can take several days. If you’re short on time, defrosting in the sink is a good alternative. It’s faster than the refrigerator method, but it requires more attention.

What You’ll Need:

  • A large, leakproof plastic bag
  • Cold water
  • A sink
  • A thermometer


  1. Prepare the Turkey: Remove the turkey from its packaging and place it in a large, leakproof plastic bag. This will help prevent cross-contamination and keep the turkey moist.
  2. Fill the Sink: Fill your sink with cold water. Make sure the water is cold enough to keep the turkey at a safe temperature, below 40°F.
  3. Submerge the Turkey: Place the bagged turkey in the sink, breast side down. Make sure the turkey is completely submerged in the water.
  4. Change the Water: Every 30 minutes, drain the water and refill the sink with fresh, cold water. This will help keep the turkey cold and prevent bacteria from growing.
  5. Monitor the Temperature: Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey every 30 minutes. The turkey is fully thawed when the internal temperature reaches 40°F.


  • Turn the Turkey: Every 30 minutes, turn the turkey over in the bag. This will help ensure that the turkey thaws evenly.
  • Don’t Use Hot Water: Never use hot water to thaw a turkey. Hot water can promote bacterial growth and make the turkey unsafe to eat.
  • Cook Immediately: Once the turkey is thawed, cook it immediately. Do not refreeze the turkey.

How Long Does It Take?

The amount of time it takes to defrost a turkey in the sink will vary depending on the size of the turkey. As a general rule of thumb, allow 30 minutes of thawing time per pound of turkey. So, a 12-pound turkey will take about 6 hours to thaw.

Safety Precautions:

  • Wash Your Hands: Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw turkey.
  • Clean Your Sink: After thawing the turkey, clean and disinfect your sink with hot, soapy water.
  • Cook Thoroughly: Cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F to ensure it is safe to eat.

Defrosting a turkey in the sink is a quick and safe way to get your Thanksgiving feast on track. Just be sure to follow the instructions carefully and monitor the temperature of the turkey to ensure it thaws evenly and safely.

Bonus Tip:

If you’re really short on time, you can also defrost your turkey in the microwave. However, this method is not recommended as it can easily overcook the turkey. If you do choose to use the microwave, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Additional Resources:

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Can I thaw a turkey in the dishwasher?

No, it is not safe to thaw a turkey in the dishwasher. Dishwashers are not designed to maintain a safe temperature for thawing food.

  • Can I thaw a turkey at room temperature?

No, it is not safe to thaw a turkey at room temperature. Bacteria can grow rapidly at room temperature, making the turkey unsafe to eat.

  • Can I refreeze a thawed turkey?

Yes, you can refreeze a thawed turkey, but it is not recommended. Refreezing a turkey can affect its quality and texture.

Thaw It in Cold Water

A frozen turkey can be safely thawed in a sink filled with cold water, but it won’t be simple. The issue is that, for every pound of frozen bird, you must allow 30 minutes for it to thaw, and you must maintain a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower throughout.

That means monitoring the temperature with an instant-read thermometer and changing the water every half hour. Now, ring in when youve figured out the problem with using this method.

Ding! You read correctly! You would need to change the water every thirty minutes for ten hours in order to defrost a very large turkey, such as a 20-pounder, which can take ten hours or longer. Thats twenty water changes!.

The main disadvantage of this approach, besides the fact that you’ll run out of time and stop changing the water after two or three hours, is that you’ll end up with a salmonella bomb soaking in your kitchen sink.

Moreover, the water must be colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit; you cannot just add fresh water from the faucet. You will need to add ice to lower the temperature if the water flowing from your tap is warmer than that.

Also, youve got to make sure the turkey remains completely submerged. If it floats (and it will), youll need to weigh it down. And if your sink is too small, this method wont work.

And whatever you do, dont try to thaw a turkey in HOT water.

Heres a time chart to help you compare thawing times using the refrigerator and cold-water methods:

Turkey Weight Thawing Time (Refrigerator) Thawing Time (Cold Water)
Up to 12 lbs 1 to 3 days 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 lbs 3 to 4 days 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 lbs 4 to 5 days 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 lbs 5 to 6 days 10 to 12 hours

Thaw It in the Refrigerator

Thawing in the refrigerator is the ONLY recommended way to defrost a frozen turkey. However, it will require a lot of time to work: 24 hours of defrosting time for every 4 to 5 pounds of bird A large turkey, about 15 to 20 pounds, will need to be refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

Which means youll have to plan ahead. If you can manage that, youll be golden. (And your turkey will be golden-brown and delicious. ).

Heres how to do it:

  • Verify that your refrigerator is set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
  • Leave the turkey in its original wrapper.
  • Arrange the bird so that any juices that spill can be caught in a pan or tray.
  • Store it at the bottom of your refrigerator to prevent contamination from leaks.
  • For every 4 to 5 pounds of frozen turkey, allow 24 hours (see the complete chart below).

Its pretty straightforward. But you can always use the cold water method if you don’t have enough time or don’t want to try roasting it while it’s still frozen. But be prepared to work.

How To Thaw Turkey In The SINK (LAST-MINUTE Method)

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