Buying, Storing & Defrosting Your Turkey

Food Safety

Turkey leftovers are one of the joys of the few days after Christmas, but you don't want more turkey than you can eat - or worse, a turkey that's too small to feed everybody. Here's a guide to the size of turkey you'll need depending on the size of your group:

  • 4-6 people: a 3-4 kg turkey
  • 6-8 people: a 4-5 kg turkey
  • 8-10 people: a 5-6 kg turkey

Buying and storing your turkey

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

If you are ordering your turkey, you could ask your butcher to store it for you - they can refrigerate it properly and you could collect it close to Christmas.

On the journey home, poultry and other meats should be packed separately from ready to eat foods, ideally in a cool bag. A fresh turkey stored in your fridge should be cooked within 2 days of buying it so, unless your turkey is frozen or you're going to freeze it, avoid bringing it home before the 23rd of December. If the turkey is vacuum-packed, you can 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 3 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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