Alton Brown's Quick Thaw Method For Massive Turkeys

At one point or another, we've all experienced the Thanksgiving conundrum. The holiday has finally arrived and, somehow, the turkey is still as frozen as an iceberg. With all the planning and prep work that comes with making a grand holiday meal, it's easy to either lose track of time or simply miscalculate how long it will take to thaw your bird.

According to the turkey experts at Butterball, to properly unfreeze a turkey in the refrigerator, you need to allow at least one day of thawing for every 4 pounds of the bird's weight. Of course, it's never advised to thaw meat at room temperature and you always want to keep the bird below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prohibit any bacterial growth.

But, there may be a better way than waiting on the refrigerator method or for the times when your fridge doesn't have the space, according to Alton Brown. After all, he is the science expert when it comes to all things cooking. As such, he has devised a clever method for safely thawing even a massive Thanksgiving turkey in record time. In fact, his suggestion will work for a traditional slow thaw or a last-minute quick thaw, holiday or not, and all it requires is a cooler.

Thawing a large turkey with a cooler saves kitchen space

Leave it to Alton Brown to come up with a clever way to get your turkey thawed and ready to cook, either using a more traditional slow method (while still saving space in your kitchen) or a quick method (saving you from a holiday panic). In either case, all you need to follow his foolproof options is a 5-gallon cooler with a drain spout and your bathtub. It also might be helpful to keep a good thermometer on hand to keep tabs on the bird's temperature throughout the process.

If you have time to spare, but are short on refrigerator space for thawing a large turkey, it can be done using a traditional slow thaw method in the cooler. Brown suggests placing your turkey in one prepared with an inch of ice at the bottom. You'll want to place the cooler in a cool spot and, in about four days, the turkey will be completely thawed. During this time it will be important to monitor the cooler's temperature and make sure to add more ice if it starts to creep up past 40 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid the growth of any bacteria.

Alton Brown's cooler trick also thaws a turkey when there's no time

Should you find yourself in a panic with a still frozen turkey on the day you need to cook it, don't fret — Alton Brown has a genius quick method for thawing that still follows the rules of food safety. It involves using a cold water bath and that trusty cooler plus a bathtub for easy drainage. You could always use your kitchen sink, too, but Brown's tips for quick thawing are again super helpful when space is limited, such as if you don't have a sink big enough to accommodate a 13-pound bird or need it to prepare the rest of the meal.

As Brown advises, grab a 5-gallon cooler with a drain spout and place it in your bathtub, adding your still-wrapped turkey and covering it with cold water. The drain spout and tub will be useful for replacing the cold water every 2 to 3 hours, ridding the old water and replacing with a fresh, cold supply. Of course, you will still need to monitor the temperature using this method and keep the bird below that important 40 degrees Fahrenheit threshold. Using Alton Brown's tips, you can safely thaw any size bird, even a 20-pounder, in just a matter of hours instead of days.