Alton Brown’s Rapid Turkey Thawing Method

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and if you haven’t thawed your turkey yet, there’s still time!

This year, I’m banking on a turkey thawing procedure by my favorite chef, Alton Brown. He’s totally the “Bill Nye” of the culinary world and I love how he incorporates science into his cooking techniques. Alton’s rapid thaw method takes around 6-hours and should be done on the same day that you plan on cooking the turkey.

As you can see, my turkey is still frozen and will remain that way until Thanksgiving morning!

Here are the steps to safely and quickly thaw your frozen turkey:

  • With turkey still in the packaging, place your turkey in a 5-gallon bucket and fill with cold water. The best place to do this is in the bathtub or shower since handling a 5-gallon bucket in your sink isn’t very easy.
  • Dump and replace the cold water in your bucket every 3-hours. This will ensure the water doesn’t get to room-temperature and build-up bacteria on your turkey.
  • After about 6-hours, your turkey should be thawed. Pour out the water, rinse the turkey, and pat dry with paper towels. The turkey Alton was using was like 14-pounds {and he doesn’t recommend going larger than that because the bird won’t cook evenly} so if you have a smaller turkey, it will probably take less time.

Since most turkeys start selling for insanely low prices the day before and OF Thanksgiving, this is the perfect method for those who put off buying their turkey until last minute.

Why is it safe?

We all know that thawing a turkey {or any meat, for that matter} at room-temperature is a big no-no, so why is this method safe?  Well, it’s because you’re surrounding the turkey with cold water that doesn’t quickly drop in temperature. Keeping the frozen turkey in a 5-gallon bucket ensures that the frozen temperatures of the turkey keep the water cool, but still thaw the turkey. By changing the water every 3-hours, you ensure that the temperature stays at a constant and safe level so that your turkey thaws, but not too quickly.

Let’s hope Alton Brown was right because I’m counting on this method to come through for me tomorrow! I have a large turkey in my freezer just waiting for me to test Alton’s rapid turkey thawing method!


  1. This is great to know, thanks for sharing!!!

  2. That’s so funny! This is how I always do it. Of course, I didn’t know if it was entirely 100% safe way to thaw a turkey, but no one has gotten sick or died from this method so far. :)

    • LOL From what Alton claims, it’s definitely safe :P It worked, by the way! LOL My 11 pound turkey took about 6-6.5 hours to fully thaw, but it was done inside and out by the time I stuck it in the oven! =)

  3. Thanks for “reviewing” this method! I remembered AB had a cooler thawing method and googled it. We just ran out of turkey leftovers before we ran out of all the rest of the leftovers and I picked up a <10lb turkey for .69c/lb tonight frozen solid! Was not wanting to wait 2-3 days to cook him and waste our leftovers :)

  4. This is such a great tip, it will really come in handy !

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