Skip to Content

How to Defrost Turkey in Microwave

Sharing is caring!

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Are you looking for fast way to a turkey? Whether you have a whole 12 pound turkey or even large pieces, microwaving is the quickest way to thaw a turkey. 

When roasting raw or reheating leftover turkey for easy meal, thawing frozen turkey is the first step that cannot be ignored. If not properly defrosted, then you may encounter potentially unsafe food.

How do you defrost a turkey in the microwave? Remove the wrapping around the turkey and take out the metal clips or plastic tags. Transfer the turkey, breast side up, to a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices.

Microwave on defrost setting for 6 minutes per pound. Rotate it several times at 6 minute intervals. The time will vary based on the weight, so weigh the turkey and use the defrost time calculator for accurate thawing. 

After the frozen turkey is fully thawed, wash the inside of the microwave to prevent cross contamination. Cook the turkey immediately after thawing by using your preferred method.

The turkey is considered to be one of the most important center piece of Thanksgiving meal. Thawing frozen turkey is actually recommended as it cuts down the lengthy cooking time, preserve moisture and flavor, and allows for even internal heating. 

Compared to overnight refrigerating, if the turkey is smaller size, microwave is best tool to defrost a frozen turkey efficiently. Due to lengthier defrost microwaving time, whole turkey may seem like more work than ground turkey, sliced turkey breast or turkey leg

With this guide, you will learn the easiest and most effective way of defrosting a turkey in the microwave. Answered below are frequently asked questions about microwave thawing whole turkey, along with tips and techniques that will give you the best results every time.

Can you defrost a turkey in the microwave?

Yes, defrosting a turkey in the microwave is possible. Thawing a turkey in the microwave is the quickest method, but it may not be as effective compared to defrosting in a fridge overnight. 

The main concern when defrosting such a large item in the microwave is overcooking. The microwave uses low heat energy to aid in thawing, and a whole turkey simply requires a lot of energy to fully thaw.

As a result, the bird must be int he microwave for an extended mount of time. The prolonged thawing time means that the outer edges may begin cooking at a low temperature while the inside core is still ice cold and trying to defrost.

Is it safe to defrost a turkey in the microwave?

Yes, it is safe to defrost a turkey in the microwave. However, there are some precautions that must followed to ensure that microwaving is effective and efficient.

Use 6 minute increments and flip or rotate the bird after each duration to promote even thawing. Furthermore, allow the turkey to rest for 3 to 5 minutes between each cycle so that the carryover heat can continue to thaw without extensive exposure to low power cooking.

Make sure that the turkey is completely thawed before beginning the process of cooking to avoid health issues such as E. coli and salmonella poisoning. These bacteria cause symptoms like nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea mostly caused by eating raw or undercooked poultry. 

After thawing, make sure to cook the turkey thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or 74 degrees Celsius to ensure that all potentially hazardous bacteria have been destroyed.

Turkey defrost time calculator

To find out the defrost time to fully thaw turkey will all depend the weight of turkey and the method you are using. Understanding the weight prior to defrosting will help you plan the complete meal accordingly.

Here are 3 methods and the defrost time equation you can apply to find the thawing time for your frozen turkey:

  • Cold water: 30 min per pound.
    turkey thawing time = weight in pounds x 30 minutes
  • Refrigerator: 1 day for every 4 pounds of turkey.
    turkey thawing time = weight in pounds x 1/4 of a day.
  • Microwave: 6 minutes per pound.
    turkey thawing time = weight in pounds x 6 minutes.

There are many ways to defrost turkey, however having a smaller size turkey really helps if you are short on time and using the microwave method. Always set on defrost setting and do not defrost in medium or high power setting in the microwave as this will surely cook the outside of the poultry.

How long does it take to defrost a 12 pound turkey?

On average, it takes about 6 minutes per pound to defrost turkey in the microwave. So, it will take about 1 hour and 12 minutes to fully defrost a 12 pound turkey in the microwave.

When defrosting a 12 pound turkey in the microwave, it is not necessary to thaw it overnight in the fridge as you can get the same results by using a microwave. 

As long as the microwave has sufficient wattage and power, thawing can be completed within 1 hour. This would be faster than spending overnight inside the refrigerator trying to defrost the turkey if there is not enough space or you forgot to make arrangements beforehand.

On the other hand, a 12 pound turkey in the fridge may take up to 3 days to defrost or about 6 hours to fully thaw in cold running water.

How long does it take to defrost a 15 pound turkey?

In the microwave, the general rule is 6 minutes per pound. Therefore, a 15 pound turkey can take about 1 hour and 30 minutes to completely thaw in the microwave. 

Ensure to flip and rotate the bird after every 6 duration to speed up defrosting process by balancing out the warming.

In contrast, a 15 pound turkey may take about 4 days to defrost when using the refrigerator method or 8 hours to defrost in cold running water. 

For accurate results, use the turkey defrost time calculator equation to help you find out the correct microwaving time to finish defrosting your turkey asap.

Tips to defrost a turkey in the microwave

If the frozen turkey is tiny enough, it is best to defrost the turkey in the microwave. In fact, it is the fastest and most convenient way to safely thaw. 

Thawing is important as it helps to shorten the cooking time afterwards and retain juicy and texture when done properly. The meat will not taste good if the outside is overcooked before the center reaches the appropriate temperature, and it is especially dangerous if the center is ice cold or still raw.

Use below microwave tips to defrost a turkey quickly:

  • Cover with a paper towels or a brown bag to absorb moisture from the meat while thawing. 
  • If the original wrapping is safe for microwaving, keep it on the turkey and then cover it with a leak-proof bag such as Ziploc bag.
  • Use a microwave-safe dish with relatively high sides to prevent the water and juices from dripping all over the microwave. 
  • Rotate or flip the turkey at equal intervals to evenly distribute the heat while defrosting. Every minute is optimal, but 5 to 6 minutes will work fine as well.
  • Cook the thawed turkey immediately to minimize risk of food borne pathogens and rapid growth of bacteria on the uncooked poultry.

Best way to defrost a turkey in the microwave

There is no right or wrong way to defrost a turkey in the microwave as long as it can be done quickly and safely without losing too much of the natural juices. However, some microwave methods are more effective compared to others. 

It is important to note that all microwaves do not have the same wattage level so this will affect its ability when defrosting a turkey in the microwave. Additionally, evaluate the size of the microwave cavity to ensure plenty of space to allow it to defrost properly. 

Use a microwave-safe dish with high edges to allow the turkey to defrost without spilling the juices. Place the frozen turkey inside a microwave-safe dish and wrap with plastic wrap or extra large resealable bag. 

Set time according to the weight of the frozen turkey, not according to hours. Thawing will take 6 minutes per pound on the defrost setting depending on the intensity and wattage of the microwave. 

Do not cook meat while it is still frozen as it may remain raw on the inside resulting in a potentially hazardous food borne illness.

Consider to rotate the turkey in-between intervals of 6 minutes for even defrosting all around. Check the turkey to see if it is soft and no ice particles are left on the outside.

Remove the fully thawed turkey and immediately continue roasting or cooking the turkey using your desired cooking method. 

Always clean up the inside of the microwave after thawing the raw turkey to prevent any harmful bacteria from spreading or cross contaminating other foods.

How to defrost turkey in microwave

Defrosting Frozen Turkey in Microwave: Conclusion

From cold water to overnight refrigerator, there are many ways to defrost turkey. However, in crunch time the microwave is your best bet to defrost a turkey quickly.

As a matter of fact, defrosting a turkey in the microwave has its benefits especially when you need rapid and effective results. Defrosting a turkey in the microwave should be done correctly to avoid any health problems related to the consumption of raw poultry.

In order to quickly thaw turkey in the microwave, take off the plastic wrapping around the turkey and remove any metal clips or tags.

Place the turkey breast-side up in a microwave-safe dish. This will help to catch any water or juices that release from the meat while defrosting.

Set the microwave on defrost setting and run for 6 minutes per pound. 

Know the weight of turkey before thawing to get the correct defrosting time in the microwave. Use the defrost time calculator to get the right timing for the size of turkey being thawed. 

At intervals of 6 minutes, rotate or flip the turkey carefully for even heating on all sides. Once the turkey is fully defrosted, cook immediately to avoid excessive growth of harmful bacteria.

The microwave method is quick, easy and safe for anyone to use for defrosting a turkey. Ensure the turkey size is reasonable as an extra large bird will be hard to thaw effectively.