EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many are preparing for a holiday feast and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to make sure those in the kitchen are preparing their birds safely by thawing them correctly.

According to the USDA, while a turkey is still frozen it is safe from any bacteria. However, as soon as the bird begins to thaw, any bacteria there before it was frozen will begin to grow again.

So, the USDA wants to make sure you’re defrosting your turkey using one of three safe methods: the refrigerator, cold water, or a microwave oven.

The first and recommended method is the refrigerator. This is the safest method to use due to the fact that the bird will thaw consistently at a safe temperature. Although this method does take time, if you’re thawing in the refrigerator, allow one day for every 4-5 pounds.

For example, if the turkey weighs 16 pounds, it will take around four days to defrost, so it should begin thawing Monday if you want it for Thanksgiving Day. When the turkey is fully thawed it is good for another two days, so you can also start thawing it six days before the holiday if you’d prefer.

The second method is using cold water. When thawing this way, leave the turkey in its wrapping and fully submerge the bird in a sink full of cold water. The water has to be cold so the turkey stays at a consistent and safe temperature, therefore the water should be replaced every 30 minutes.

Using this method the turkey, you should allow 30 minutes of thawing time per pound. So a 16-pound turkey will take 8 hours to thaw, so you may need to begin defrosting around 4:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving if you want to eat in the afternoon. Once the bird is defrosted, cook it immediately.

Thirdly, those preparing their T-Day turkey can also thaw it using the microwave. Before you choose this method, check the owner’s manual to see what size turkey will fit, the minutes it will take to defrost per pound, and the power level to use when thawing out.

To begin, remove all of the outer wrappings and place the turkey on a microwave-safe dish and use the microwave’s defrost function based on the weight of the bird. As a general rule, allow six minutes per pound when thawing, and be sure to rotate it several times and even flip it during the thawing process.

If the turkey begins to cook, instead of defrosting, take it out and let it rest for around five minutes before resuming. Once the turkey has thawed, immediately begin cooking it.

Just in case, the USDA also has recommendations on how NOT to thaw a turkey:

  • Do not thaw a turkey on the counter, in the garage, or on the back porch.
  • Don’t thaw a turkey in a brown paper grocery bag or plastic garbage bag.
  • Never use the dishwasher to thaw a turkey (with or without water).
  • Don’t use any method that is not the refrigerator, cold water, or microwave.

The USDA also says not to panic if your turkey is still frozen on Thanksgiving morning. It is safe to cook a turkey if it’s frozen, it will just take a longer time to cook.

If the bird is frozen solid it will take at least 50 percent longer to cook than a defrosted turkey. Even partially frozen, it will still take a bit longer to cook, so use a thermometer, and when the bird reached 165 degrees in the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing, and the thicket part of the breast, it’s ready for you and your guests to gobble down.

For more information on these safe thawing methods visit the Food Safety and Inspection Service section on the USDA’s website.