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Charlie Velasquez
11-24-2015, 9:27 PM
Help me out understand thawing a turkey.

Background: The USDA and the CDC both say when thawing a turkey and using the cold water method: to fully submerge the bird in cold tap water, then to change the water every thirty minutes till thawed. They suggest about 30 minutes per pound thawing time.
They further state there is a bacteria danger zone of 40*-140*F, and a critical time of 4 hrs at those temps, although any time at those temps should be avoided.

I understand that if a bird were to be left on the counter the outside would thaw first and room air, by nature of being a gas, would be more volatile wrt temperature and would allow the outside surface of the bird to reach temperatures almost to room temps before the inside could thaw. That is why they recommend refrigerators for defrosting. But cold water can speed the process.

Ok....Data:
room temp - 64; initial cold tap water temp -63; cold water temp after 2 minutes of flow -61; cwt after 5min flow= 57
Turkey (wt=13.2 pounds) initial surface temp =+2

I placed a small porcelain bowl in the bottom of a large pot sufficient to completely
submerge the bird.
I placed the bird in a plastic bag and removed as much of the air as possible before sealing.
I placed the bird in the pot, the porcelain bowl ensured there was always an inch or so of water between the bird and the container on the bottom. I wedged small plastic Glad containers on the sides of the bird to ensure a water layer between the bird and the sides of he pot.
I filled the pot with tap water at 57*.

After 30 minutes, the temp of the water was generally 44*, the temp of the pot adjacent to he water was 46*, the temp of the water closest to the bird was 42.

The outside temp of the bird was 28.

It seems to me this is the perfect scenario. The temps closest to the surface of the bird are cold, and this coldness is slowly being distributed to the outside air surface.

Why would I want to remove the 42* water and substitute 57* water? Especially if I did this as the temp of the surface of the bird got closer to the 40* threshold. It just seems it would more likely lead to warmer surface temps.

In fact, we are still thawing the bird and I did not change the water. I am monitoring the surface temps. Someone explain why I shouldn't be doing this.

Barry McFadden
11-24-2015, 10:47 PM
I think you are over complicating this....... for about the last 40 years I have put the frozen bird in a sink full of water the day before it was to be cooked. Left it in all day, never changed the water. Took it out that night and put it in the fridge and cooked it the next day. I haven't died of any kind of turkey poisoning yet!!

Jim Koepke
11-25-2015, 2:42 AM
Heck both my mom and my wife have left big turkeys on the counter overnight to thaw.

No one in our families have gotten sick or died.

BTW, they are left in the sealed bag they were in when they were bought until it is time to put them in the roasting pan.

jtk

Randy Red Bemont
11-25-2015, 8:12 AM
I do overnight in the empty sink then a couple of days in the fridge. It cooks long enough so I don't worry about any sickness. And I cook it in a cooking bag. Can't wait. It's my most favorite meal of the year.

Red

Robert Engel
11-25-2015, 8:46 AM
Simple solution: by a fresh turkey!!

Tasted MUCH better.

ryan paulsen
11-25-2015, 9:17 AM
Your cold tap water seems awful warm to me. The reason for changing water is to allow the turkey to pull heat from the fresh water. If your water near the bird is still 40 degrees, no need to change it. In fact, i would not want to add 50 some degree water for the reasons you stated. If the water near the bird gets too cold, you could trickle tap water in to slowly replace the cold water.

Pat Barry
11-25-2015, 9:34 AM
After 30 minutes, the temp of the water was generally 44*, the temp of the pot adjacent to he water was 46*, the temp of the water closest to the bird was 42.

The outside temp of the bird was 28.

It seems to me this is the perfect scenario. The temps closest to the surface of the bird are cold, and this coldness is slowly being distributed to the outside air surface.

Why would I want to remove the 42* water and substitute 57* water? Especially if I did this as the temp of the surface of the bird got closer to the 40* threshold. It just seems it would more likely lead to warmer surface temps.

In fact, we are still thawing the bird and I did not change the water. I am monitoring the surface temps. Someone explain why I shouldn't be doing this.


So, if you leave it alone, I think its likely that the water temperature would drop even further and then the efficiency of thawing will drop accordingly. Running in some fresh tap water obviously raises the temperature of the water somewhat, but this helps to expedite the thawing process. You could likley get by without adding fresh water but the turkey might take very long to thaw - ie: overnight. The longer the turkey is in the zone above 40, the more bacteria will grow. I think its best to thaw it more quickly so the bacteria don't grow and replicate. I don't thaw in the sink til the morning of, and then keep the water fresh continually with steady water flow. It usually only takes a couple hours.

Ian Moone
11-25-2015, 9:42 AM
Happy Turkey day, you Turkeys! :D

Barry McFadden
11-25-2015, 10:07 AM
The recipe I have says "let the bird chill in the sink for a few hours"....

325831

Kev Williams
11-25-2015, 12:43 PM
2495184 The reason for changing water is to allow the turkey to pull heat from the fresh water...
This makes sense to me, but every website states something like this (copied & pasted from different websites)

Change the water every 30 minutes, to ensure that it stays cold enough.

Change water every 30 minutes to keep the turkey chilled.

Change water every 30 minutes to keep turkey surface cold.

It is vital for the sake of safety that you change the cold water every 30 minutes.

Umm, are there some thermodynamics I'm not aware of here? As the OP pointed out, how will changing cold water out with warmer water keep the turkey cold? Not one of the websites I've read on this subject (about a dozen) mention adding ICE to the fresh water? That's what my wife's always done, plus she adds salt. She changes out the water about every 2 hours. We've never died either! ;)

Charlie Velasquez
11-25-2015, 1:14 PM
?.....Not one of the websites I've read on this subject (about a dozen) mention adding ICE to the fresh water? That's what my wife's always done.....Your wife sounds like a very wise person, that is what I did later.
Follow up:
After 2.5 hrs the water temp in the pot started to rise to upper 40's. The surface temp of the bird was 37. I added some ice. At 4 hrs bird's suface temp was almost at 40. I was tired so I removed a shelf in our frig, added a little ice, and placed the entire pot in there, then went to bed. This morning I have a completely thawed bird at 36 surface and 34 interior (as measured by our meat thermometer.. Wish I had thought to do that during the process)
And at no time was the bird above 40.

It seems this is a much better way. The water effectively increased the surface area of the bird, increasing the heat exchange between air and pot/bird; while at the same time adding thermal mass that better moderates the temperature change.
And, using a pot isolated the bird and water from other foods/prep surfaces to reduce possible contamination.

Had I followed the USDA guidelines and added fresh water when the surface temp was near 40 wouldn't that have just raised the temp to above 40? I wonder how they came up with their recommendation?

Randy Rose
11-25-2015, 1:28 PM
I think you are over complicating this......

Amen to that.

Seems like a NASA solution to a paper airplane problem