Christmas 2021: How to defrost a turkey and how long you need to thaw it for

It’s the star of the show and the centre piece of you Christmas feast, so making sure you perfect the timing of your turkey defrost is vital

You may need to defrost your Christmas turkey several days before Christmas Day
You may need to defrost your Christmas turkey several days before Christmas Day

When the big day rolls around one of the most important things will be the bird in the middle of your table, and deciding whether it is a Christmas to remember or one to forget starts with making sure it’s properly defrosted.

In 2016, the Guardian reported that one in three British consumers admitted to having to throw away turkey and sprouts before they reached the table because of a lack of kitchen expertise.

It has also been claimed that around one million slices of turkey get thrown away per year, the equivalent of 263,000 birds.

Not only is it a waste, but food that hasn’t properly thawed can be dangerous and harbouring harmful bacteria. There is the potential for some of the meat to be raw or under-cooked despite appearing done on the outside.

So, here’s your guide to ensuring your Christmas Day turkey preparation goes smoothly.

How long do you need to defrost a turkey?

A frozen turkey needs plenty of time to defrost and thaw



The first port of call is to check the packaging for any guidance, as it could be specific to the size of bird you bought.

Though, if there aren’t any, the NHS suggest allowing 10 to 12 hours per kilogram of turkey.

This means a large turkey can take a couple of days to defrost, so don’t leave this until Christmas Eve if you’re going all out.

They need to be put into the fridge at 4C and, once it has been fully defrosted, it can remain the fridge until it needs to be cooked.

When should you defrost your turkey for Christmas day?

Because it is more of an issue for the turkey to have not properly thawed than to have thawed a little early, the best bet is to give some margin as to how much time you think it will need.

If you have a three-kilo turkey, you may want to err on the safe side of the NHS’s advice and give it a little more than three lots of 10-12 hours. This could mean letting it defrost from the night of December 23.

However, for heavier turkeys, prep may need to begin a few days earlier in the week leading up to Christmas Day.

How do I defrost a turkey?

Be sure to put your turkey into a non-drip tray to defrost and pour away the liquid regularly.



The NHS website suggests placing your turkey in a large dish, which will be able to hold all the liquid that will come out of the bird as it defrosts, and removing the giblets and neck as soon as you can in order to speed up the process.

It states: “Turkey (and any other poultry) is best defrosted in a covered dish at the bottom of the fridge so that it cannot drip onto other foods.

“Pour away the liquid that comes out of the defrosting turkey regularly to stop it overflowing and spreading bacteria. Be careful not to splash the liquid onto worktops, dishes, cloths or other food.

“Bear in mind what else you have stored in the fridge. Cooked meats and other ready-to-eat foods should be covered and stored higher up.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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