Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Free Advice on Thawing Frozen Turkey

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," and our popular ongoing series of free advice! Visit often -- maybe someday you'll actually find something useful. Or not. No guarantees.

Today we're talking turkey, both the gobbler kind and the vulture kind. Sit back as our story unfolds.

Every year, our local Acme Market gives away frozen turkeys to any customer who spends $300 in a certain number of weeks. I'm not sure if it's six weeks or eight, but I shop there all the time, so I never fail to qualify for a frozen turkey. What I love about this giveaway is that I can get a turkey, keep it frozen, and heave it out when the weatherman predicts a blizzard. Call it my Appalachian DNA, but there's something soothing about knowing you've got a big-ass frozen turkey on hand as a contingency plan.

If you buy frozen turkeys, you know that the advice on how to thaw them is printed on the plastic wrap that coats their poor icy carcasses. "Do not thaw frozen turkey at room temperature. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or run cold water over turkey for two hours."

Ever tried either one of those tactics, reader? Ever wake up on Thanksgiving morning to a rock-solid frozen turkey that was supposed to be thawed after an overnight stay in the fridge? Have you ever wasted a reservoir of water trying to soften the thing up, only to wind up facing a hungry family with nothing more than cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole?

Don't try this at home, but my mama (may she rest in peace among the Confederate dead) just sat the frozen turkey on the counter top to thaw. Then she cooked it, and we ate it, and none of us died from it or even got sick. As I say, though, don't take chances! Here's where the free advice comes in.

Thaw that bird at least five days in the fridge, and then don't be surprised if it's still rock-solid inside. Free advice, freely given, all hail free!

Now you're asking, "Anne, dear, why are you talking turkey in July? Wouldn't this be best left for early November?"

Yes, of course this would be best left until early November, but that would be logical. I hope you didn't come here for logic! If you did, you took a wrong turn somewhere.

I'm talking turkey now because last week along the mighty Chesapeake Bay I made my annual donation to the local vulture population. I shoved a big frozen turkey (sans plastic wrap) into a soybean field near our Bed and Breakfast inn.

(Last year's donation was a fresh roadkill possum, adult, that hadn't even drawn flies. But one cannot always be this lucky.)

Picture a 15-pound frozen turkey, lying in a soybean field under the bright sunshine, with the temperature hovering at 97 or higher. How long will it take to thaw?

By my unscientific calculations, any frozen carcass would thaw rapidly under such conditions. I figured two, maybe three hours. But judging by the behavior of the local vulture population, that frozen turkey took 24 hours to gain any notice at all, and another 8 hours before it got consumed. By contrast, I heaved last year's dead possum into the same field at about 8:00 in the morning and found nothing but a spine and a tail (and much vulture down) at 2:30 the same day.

Of course you could argue -- and I wouldn't dispute you -- that roadkill possum is a familiar dish to the Golden Purifiers, and Acme frozen turkey is exotic fare. Still, vultures aren't very picky about what they eat. Think about it: It took one whole day of 97 degrees sunshine, followed by a night where the temperature did not drop under 80, and then half of another 97-degree day, before the turkey vultures found their treat.

Keep this in mind the next time your local grocery store lets you walk out with a free frozen turkey. The thawing directions are bogus. Don't expect a quick turnaround time. Let the vultures of St. Michaels, MD be your guide, and plan accordingly.

Our ushers will now pass the plate. Dig deep.

(*snort* I hope this starts popping up in Google searches on this topic, but I doubt it will.)


Intense Guy said...


I too have gotten free turkeys (turkii?) from the ACME and suffered as they took forever and ever to thaw.

...but what I really want to know now is this..do the vultures of St. Michaels, MD prefer Butterball or any other?

p.s., I'm a little surprised they even recognized a naked frozen turkey as food...

PaigeKate said...

My mom and I put our birds in the fridge five days before cooking and if Tanya (since most turkeys sold are female) is still a little frigid, then we set her in a bucket of cold water, she usually limbers up and is ready for her date with the oven.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

And that's why we cook only the brand of turkeys that can go into the oven frozen right from the freezer. No fuss, no mess. They cook beautifully. Taste wonderful. Got stuffing inside too.

Alex Pendragon said...

Could somebody PLEASE provide me with the scientific rationale for how fast a turkey thaws out has anything to do with safety? It seems to ME that the longer it takes to thaw out, the more opportunity bacteria of various ilk have to do their dirty work, if indeed there ARE such bacteria lurking out there that prefer a RAPIDLY thawed turkey carcus to thrive within.......

I used to play on rusted car wrecks as a kid, got cut up alot from all those rusty sharp edges, and never once had to get a tetenis shot. Hmmmmmm..........

Hecate said...

You are one of the only people I know who would put a frozen turkey in a soybean field as an act of devotion. I just love you. Can I buy you a drink in BS any time soon?

Briny Deep said...

Alex P, The longer thaw in the fridge never allows the turkey to come to a temperature where bacteria have an easy time reproducing. On the counter, the insides are still frozen while the outside is warm enough for those bacteria to have millions of children. This information brought to you by your friendly neighborhood science-teacher-who-was-a-restaurant-management-major-in-college. Take it all with a grain of salt.

I am glad I am not the only adorer-of-vultures. I had my students make vulture sock puppets today. They were down for it.


I've done both...but I always cut the paper around the turkey..let air in.I've thawed it in 5 days in the frig..and i've thawed it out in my sink...still here.

kitchen table said...

Last year I bought a whole frozen turkey. I don't have any idea that there is a right way in thawing it. Now that I know the right way. I will never get wrong again. Thank you for sharing those very useful tips.

GreenWheel said...

:-D  he he he.  Love the buzzard feeding!

On a different note, I'd like to give you a blog award for your awesome-ness; please go to my blog here for your award

kimc said...

Some of the reasons we are now so concerned about growing bacteria on our poultry is that
a)factory farms are dirtier than farms where someone cares
b)being a third-world country now, we can no longer afford to pay for government (read "independent") inspectors for meat
c) we're breeding tougher bugs these days
It seems we, as a society, have decided to deal with the problem by warning you the consumer rather than by preventing the contamination at the processing facilities. It's cheaper.

[word verification is "derdy"]

Anne Johnson said...

Kitchen table, in your case I would thaw as directed and then serve on a nice kitchen table purchased from a website dedicated to kitchen tables.