How to defrost a turkey

Get it wrong and you risk food poisoning

Roast Thanksgiving Turkey recipe just wouldn't be the same for many people without a succulent roast turkey on the table. Yet despite the health warnings, it seems many of us Brits are risking food poisoning by not preparing it properly. When it comes to a defrosting poultry, here are the dos and don'ts you need to know.

DO: defrost your turkey in the fridge
The best way to defrost a turkey is in the fridge. Check the packaging and follow the retailer's recommended defrosting time. Leave the bird covered (in its original packaging or a container) to hold any thawing juices and place it at the bottom of the fridge.

Other foods should be stored above it, to help prevent the risk of the juice causing cross-contamination. Give yourself about one day of thawing time for every 4lbs of turkey.

If you need to quickly defrost it, a cold-water thaw in a large sink is best. Place the turkey breast-side down in an unopened wrapper in enough cold water to completely cover it. Change the water frequently to keep the bird chilled. Estimate a minimum of 30 minutes a pound for a whole turkey.

DON'T wash turkey or chicken before cooking it
Nearly 50% of British people say they always or usually put their festive bird under the tap before cooking it, according to a survey by The University of Manchester.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) warns against washing uncooked turkey or chicken as it risks spraying pathogens, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, over kitchen surfaces, clean plates and cutlery, which can lead to food poisoning. Last year, the FSA revealed that 70% of chickens on sale in the UK tested positive for Campylobacter - the most common cause of food poisoning.

DON'T defrost your turkey in the shed
You might take care to defrost your turkey following the instructions on the packaging – but where do you leave it to defrost? According to a survey by the FSA, some 69% of Britons who buy a frozen bird for their festive lunch – almost 11 million people – leave it in an unsafe place to thaw out, such as the bath, garage or garden shed.

DON'T eat old leftovers
Finally, be careful with leftovers. NHS Choices estimates that one in five of us will risk food poisoning this year by eating old turkey leftovers that have been around longer than the recommended limit of two days in the fridge.

One it's defrosted, make sure you cook it at the right temperature: