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Thawing Turkey?

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I've left a 17 pound turkey defrosting in cold water for 18 hours (forgot about it). Is it safe to eat or am I going to give all my Thanksgiving guests food poisoning?

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  1. Wow, a prolonged soak is not really the best way to defrost a turkey and have it be safely edible. Let's assume the water was 40° or below for 18 hours, that might be ok. Can you guarantee that your soaking water was at a steady 40° or below for the last 18 hours? Was the water running over the turkey the entire 18 hours or you just had the turkey soaking in it? If the water wasn't running or changed periodically, you may have quite a collection of bacteria built up on your turkey, and the turkey may have become soggy as well, if the bag it's wrapped in was not leak proof. Most plastic turkey wrappings are not leak proof.

    A 25 lb turkey soaking in cold water, which should be changed at least every half hour, will take about 12 hours to defrost, 1/2 hour per pound, and it's very important that the turkey be in a leak proof bag so as not to allow the turkey meat to absorb the water, which it will. Running water is really the best method to use, if you're going to defrost your turkey in this way; a slow trickle of cold water is actually much more effcient and less water wasteful than a soak in a tub of cold water with periodic changes. I realize this doesn't help you now.

    I only have used this defrosting method in a pinch or to finish defrosting a turkey that was started in the frig. If the water defrosting is done properly, I don't feel that you'll be jepordizing the health of your guests. Only you know the water temperature details of your turkey soak, base your decision to eat it or not on that.

    1. If you defrosted in running cold water there should not be issue. BUT!!!....DO NOT STUFF IT! MAKE SURE YOU COOK ALL PARTS TO 165-170 F! AND IT WOULD NOT HURT TO WASH IT WITH HEAVILY SALTED WATER, then rinse with plain water. Bacteria will only be on exposed surfaces inside and out. And please make sure there is no cross-contamination, wash everything that could possably come in contact with Turkey juice. A 1/4 Cup Bleach to a Gallon of water will kill anything! Happy Thanksgiving.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Chef Jimmy J

        1/4 cup of bleach to ONE gallon of water? That is WAAYYY more bleach than is needed for a gallon. Chef, next time you're at work I want you to mix some sanitizer water with the ratio you state and then check it with your test strips. The PPM will be so high I guarantee the strip will turn BLACK.

        Using bleach diluted in water is very effective when used as a sanitizer. When it is mixed properly you should not be able to smell any bleach at all. The above recipe will surely smell of bleach.

        1. re: JayL

          Right, the ratio for disinfecting water to make it safe for drinking, or for a general disinfectant around the house, is one teaspoon to a gallon of water. More bleach or a higher concentration of bleach does not kill more bateria, it's a situation where more is not better or even necessary.

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            It is 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water. One teaspoon for five gallons.

            I live in earthquake country and need to know these things.

            http://www.newjerusalem.com/PureWater...

            1. re: Cathy

              A 1/4 teaspoon is a far cry from 1/4 cup per gallon, even for a disinfecting a turkey.;-)

          2. re: JayL

            I was in a rush and remembered it was 1/4 something...1/4Cup....1/4 oz......1/4 Tbs......Figured GO BIG or Go home....or in this case go to the Hospital.lol
            Thanks for the correction, Ladies....JJ