How to Thaw a Butterball Turkey

Whether it’s Thanksgiving and you’ve bought a frozen turkey to feed a crowd or you took advantage of sales after the holidays and bought an extra frozen turkey, the time will come when you need to thaw your bird. Thawing a Butterball turkey isn’t as easy as it may sound, as there is a particular science to this process. 

You can thaw a Butterball turkey by setting it down in the fridge for a set amount of time that is calculated based on the turkey’s weight. A few less popular methods to thaw a Butterball turkey consist of cold water and microwave.

Thawing a Butterball turkey in the refrigerator is the only safe way to defrost a turkey without exposing it to temperatures that are hot enough to allow bacteria to grow from the turkey heating unevenly. 

Freezing a Butterball turkey for later use is an economical way to feed a crowd. A whole turkey can be used in a variety of ways and can result in many dinners once it is thawed and cooked to perfection. 

Steps for Thawing a Butterball Turkey

You can’t just set a Butterball turkey down in the fridge and expect it to thaw overnight. The process of defrosting such a big piece of meat takes a bit more care than that. Follow the tips below to successfully thaw your Butterball turkey at home:

Determine Its Weight

The first step in thawing a Butterball turkey is to acknowledge the weight of the bird you are working with. Defrosting time often consists of thawing a turkey per pound, so weighing your bird or looking at the tag will allow you to easily calculate how long it will take to thaw in the fridge. 

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Calculate Thawing Time

A general rule of thumb is to allow one day of thawing in the fridge for every 4-5 pounds your turkey weighs. So, for a turkey that weighs 16 pounds, you can plan on leaving your bird in the refrigerator for four days before it will be completely thawed. 

Once it is completely thawed, your turkey can stay well in the fridge for an additional two days. So, if you need to thaw a 16-pound turkey, you can set it out six days before Thanksgiving to ensure it thaws thoroughly and remains fresh in your fridge. 

Other Methods of Thawing a Butterball Turkey

There are two additional methods to thaw a Butterball turkey that you could follow, but they have to be done cautiously. You will have to immediately use the thawed turkey after completing these thawing methods to follow food safety protocols. 

Cold Water

The best way to complete this method is to leave your turkey in its original wrapper to keep water out. You can then submerge the turkey in a sink full of cold water or a large container of cold water. 

Keeping the turkey in cold water is important for maintaining the temperature of the turkey to prevent foodborne illness. The water in the container or sink should be changed every 30 minutes to maintain a cool temperature, as well. 

You can expect this method to take 30 minutes per pound of turkey for defrosting. So, theoretically, it would take 8 hours for a 16-pound turkey to thaw using the cold water method. Keep in mind, you’ll have to be changing the water during this period. 

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Once the turkey has completely thawed using the cold water method, you’ll have to cook it immediately. You won’t be leaving your turkey in the fridge after that. 


You might be skeptical of thawing a turkey in the microwave, but if your Butterball turkey fits in the microwave there is a good chance you can use this method of thawing. Be sure to check your microwave’s owner’s manual to see if there is any information about the size of turkey your unit will fit or any additional time required for wattage. 

To thaw a turkey in the microwave, you’ll first want to remove the plastic wrapping, netting, and any metal parts. Place your turkey on a dish in the microwave to catch any juices that may leak out during defrosting, which you may have to change frequently. 

You’ll defrost your Butterball turkey based on weight, which will include a calculation of 6 minutes per pound of turkey. Rotate the turkey, flip it around, and even roll it to ensure it heats evenly all the way through. 

If you notice your turkey starting to get too hot and cook instead of defrosting, let it sit for five minutes before starting over again. Halfway through thawing, you may also want to remove smaller pieces, like wings and drumsticks, so they don’t cook too much. After thawing your Butterball turkey in the microwave, you’ll want to cook it immediately thereafter. 

When you’re craving a taste of the holidays, thaw a butterball turkey, some frozen sweet potatoes, and rolls to make the ultimate dinner.