My turkey is still frozen! What can I do?

Have you checked your turkey? Is it still frozen? Don’t fret, there is still time to defrost it and brine it at the same time.

frozen turkey? no problemMy 16 pound frozen turkey was purchased and popped in the fridge last THURSDAY. According to the ‘experts’, one should allow 1 day per every 4 pounds to defrost in the fridge. I’ve been cooking turkeys for 30+ years and they simply don’t defrost that fast in the fridge.

So, here’s what you do:

Get a big bucket or even an ice chest. Whatever you use, it must be big enough to keep the turkey submerged. Scrub it out so it’s clean enough to eat off, and then scrub a little more. (ok, so I’m a germaphobe)

Now, get about 2 cups of plain old table salt and put it in the bucket. Add 2-4 cups of HOT water to dissolve the salt. Now add other seasonings. I personally add 1 tsp black pepper, 1 T sage and 4 or 5 cloves of fresh, crushed garlic. The hot water at this point will help release the flavor of the spices. Mix it up. Now add a gallon or 2 of COLD water. Mix again.

Take your frozen bird out of the wrapper. If you can get the neck and bag of innards out do so, it’ll help speed the defrost time. If not, don’t worry about it. You’ll be able to work them out in a few hours.

Put the bird in the brine and add more cold water until the whole thing is covered. It’s gonna try to float, so you’ll have to weight it down. I use a 5 gallon bucket and stack a soup bowl followed by a couple of dinner plates and usually a gallon of water or other heavy item on top.

Now you want to put this somewhere cool. The frozen turkey is actually going to lower the temperature of the water, but we don’t want this sucker warming up. It needs to stay cold to prevent the growth of nasty bacteria. Fortunately it’s only 40° here where I am, so I can pop my covered bucket onto my porch or put it in my garage. If it’s warm where you are and you can’t fit the bucket with the bird in a fridge you’re probably going to have to add ice periodically (after draining some of the brine) to keep the temperature down. If you’re concerned you can periodically test the temperature with a thermometer, it needs to stay below 70 — and that’s a MAXIMUM, I personally shoot for somewhere in the 40s or 50s.

For safety’s sake keep it cold!

Since my bird is still almost frozen solid (even after 5 days!!!) I’m going to be checking it every few hours and my first goal is to get the neck and the bag of innards out. We need to get more water into the bird to defrost from the inside out as well. When the joints are defrosted I’ll loosen them up from the side of the bird. The more water flowing around it the better.

Did I mention you need to keep it cold?

I’ve been defrosting my turkeys this way for a long time. Defrosting this way takes about an hour per pound. I just put my bird in the brine at 3:30. It’s 16 pounds, so it’ll be perfectly defrosted in time to pop it in the oven tomorrow morning.