With Thanksgiving less than a week away, it’s about time to get turkeys out of the freezer and into the fridge to thaw.

The Farmer’s Almanac says these are the three safest methods for defrosting a turkey:

  • Refrigerator method
  • Cold water thawing method
  • Microwave method

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers the refrigerator method one of the safest because the turkey will thaw at a safe and consistent temperature. When thawing in the fridge, the USDA recommends allowing about 24 hours for every four or five pounds of poultry.

The cold water method may speed up the defrosting process, but remember that the turkey should be cooked immediately after using this method according to USDA. When thawing in a cold water bath, submerge the turkey in its original wrapping to avoid cross-contamination. Allow 30 minutes of thaw time per pound and change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed.

The microwave method may not be an ideal choice, but it is possible, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. Their recommendation is to check your microwave’s owner manual for the size turkey that will fit, along with the recommended minutes per pound and power level. One rule of thumb is to allow six minutes per pound when defrosting in the microwave.

Make sure to remove all outer wrapping and place your turkey on a microwave-safe dish to catch any potential juices before starting. The Farmer’s Almanac recommends rotating the bird several times during the process. Once you defrost a turkey with this method, you’ll want to cook it right away.

Leaving a turkey on the counter to thaw isn’t recommended. Frozen meat or poultry left on the counter at room temperature for more than two hours becomes a risk for foodborne illness. The temperature of the outer layer of the food rises to between 40 and 140 F- a temperature where bacteria multiply, placing you at risk for illness.

The USDA also recommends these food prep do’s and don’t’s:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before, during and after handling food.
  • Don’t use the same cutting boards and utensils for raw and ready-to-eat foods. Use separate cutting boards – one for raw meat and poultry and another for foods like fruits and veggies that will be served raw.
  • Don’t cook your turkey at a low temperature overnight. Cook your turkey at 325 F or above and make sure all parts of the bird reach a safe internal temperature (165 F).