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Buying, storing and defrosting your turkey

What size turkey do you need?

Buying and storing your turkey

Buy your turkey as close to Christmas as possible and store it in your fridge or freezer as soon as you get home. 

You could ask your butcher to store it for you - they can refrigerate it properly and you could collect it when convenient.

On the journey home, poultry and other meats should be packed separately from ready to eat foods, ideally in a cool bag. Ideally a fresh turkey stored in your fridge should be cooked within two days of buying it. Or if the turkey is vacuum-packed, follow the use-by date.

Defrosting your turkey safely

If you have bought a frozen turkey, it must be fully defrosted before cooking. Do not try to cook it from frozen.

The safest way to defrost your turkey is to place it on a dish, tray or large platter on the bottom of your fridge. You will need to allow 24 hours for every 4-5lbs /1.8-2.2kg.

Give yourself plenty of time - it can take up to three days to fully defrost a frozen 15lb / 7.5kg turkey.

Turkey Defrosting Time Chart

Size of Turkey

Defrosting time in fridge

8-12 lbs / 3.5 – 5.5kg

2- 3 days

12-14 lbs / 5.5 – 6.5 kg

3 - 3 ½ days

14-18 lbs / 6.5 – 8kg

4 - 4 ½ days

18-20 lbs / 8 – 9kg

4 ½- 5 days

20-24 lbs / 9 – 11kg

5 – 6 days

You know your turkey completely defrosted when:

  • The body is soft
  • The legs can be moved
  • There are no ice crystals inside the cavity

Once your frozen turkey has completely defrosted, it cooks the same way as a fresh turkey.

Before the Christmas rush give your fridge a good clean with warm soapy water. You can also re-arrange the shelves to make room for your turkey. Always store it on the bottom shelf so that drips won't land on ready to eat foods which could spread germs leaving these foods unsafe to eat.

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