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Nov 12, 2008 04:33 PM

Thawing Turkey in a Cooler: What's with the Freezer Packs?

I brine my fresh turkey in a cooler with ice brine. But I just caught AB's turkey episode again, and realized he thaws a FROZEN bird in a cooler to which he adds half a dozen freezer packs. it occurred to me, what was the point in that? He just took a rock hard frozen 16lb. mass and placed it in an insulated cooler. You'd think the frozen turkey itself is amply sufficient to keep the temperature safe. And if not, what good would another 1lb of freezer packs do?

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  1. Uh, oh. IMHO, you are both wrong. I tend to be paranoid when it comes to poultry and storage temp. OK, so here goes:
    1) there are 2 kinds of turkey: frozen, and fresh. How you treat it is totally different.
    2) a fresh turkey, you simply order it in advance, and pick it up the day before. You brine or spice rub or whatever on Wednesday, stick into frig, and Thurs morn you are ready to go.
    3) frozen: just like #2, but buy it the weekend before, and let it thaw in the frig a few days until Wed., and proceed with #2.
    4) using a styrofoam cooler, under any circumstances for any reason, with or w/o any number of blue ice packs, is a safety NO-NO. OK, you might be able to get away with it w/o sending everyone to the hospital with food poisoning, but why risk it? C'mon: stick your turkey IN THE REFRIGERATOR. No room? MAKE ROOM!!!!

    2 Replies
    1. re: jerry i h

      I don't buy frozen, so it's not actually an issue for me. And believe me, when brining a turkey in a Rubbermaid cooler full of salty ice water, over 24 hour period, it stays MUCH colder than my refrigerator.

      With frozen, sure, it sounds like it COULD be a no-no, but I would assume AB actually measured temps inside his cooler during the thawing period. I'm just wondering as a matter of science how much difference an ice pack or 2 could make.

      1. re: sbp

        I saw the episode too. He did use a thermometer with an alarm to measure the temperature.

    2. Ever try to transport an ice cream cake for more than an hour with freezer packs? They melt because the ice cream(-10 or below) is colder than the higher temperature (0-32 degrees) freezer pack that's supposed to be keeping it cold. For a frozen turkey in a cooler, you are basically using the freezer packs to create a fridge like environment. Without the packs, it would basically be sitting in a fridge that had never been plugged in.