Roast turkey with the trimmings - how to defrost a turkey

Buying a frozen turkey in advance is a great way to spread the cost of Christmas. Frozen turkeys are often cheaper too, meaning you can usually bag a higher-welfare bird for a lower price. But how do you safely defrost a turkey in time for the Big Day?

Whatever you do, please don’t defrost your turkey by letting it sit on the kitchen counter – that’s a sure-fire way to increase the risk of getting food poisoning! Defrosting your turkey at the bottom of the fridge is the safest and easiest method.


  • Always defrost your turkey in the fridge, in a bowl or large container to catch any juices.
  • Always place your turkey at the bottom of the fridge to defrost – this will prevent any raw turkey juices dripping onto other food and contaminating them with potential food-poisoning bacteria.
  • Whole turkeys take a long time to defrost, and a large bird can take up to 4 days. The packaging should specify how long to defrost the product for, but as a guide you should allow 10 hours per kilo. So if you have a 6-8kg turkey, it’ll need 2-3 days to defrost – pop it in the fridge on 22 December, so it’s ready for you to prep on Christmas Eve. 
  • Remember: always thoroughly wash your hands after handling raw meat and clean down kitchen surfaces properly.  

perfect turkey recipes for christmas day with lemon and herbs on top


Make a note of the weight of your turkey and the suggested cooking time if you buy your bird online or from a butcher – you’re going to need it to calculate the cooking time! Supermarket turkeys should be clearly labelled, which is super-handy.

Calculate your cooking time using the weight as a guide, and don’t forget: your turkey will need to rest after it’s come out of the oven, before carving. Turkeys between 4-6kg should be rested for 1½ hours, and ones from 6-10kg can rest for up to 2 hours.

On the day you want to cook your turkey, get it out of the fridge 30 minutes before it needs to go in the oven – you’ll get less shrinkage when it goes into a hot oven. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4, then follow the timings below: 

4-5kg – cook 2¼ to 2½ hours

5-6kg – cook 2½ to 3 hours

6-7kg – cook 3 hours to 3½ hours

7-8kg – cook 3½ to 4 hours

8-9kg – cook 4 to 4¼ hours

9-10kg – cook 4¼ to 4½ hours

Roast the turkey for the required time, or until the juices run clear from the thickest part of the thigh if you pierce it with a knife or a skewer. Using a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature of the turkey. A supermarket high-welfare bird should be cooked to at least 70ºC. If you have a dry-plucked, dry-aged, excellent quality bird, you can cook it to 65ºC to be safe to eat.

Remember, if you’ve frozen cooked food, don’t freeze it again after reheating it. Use up the cold leftovers in lovely festive sandwiches and salads, instead. 

Cooking on a budget this Christmas? A turkey crown is a fantastic alternative to a traditional whole bird. Learn how to cook a turkey crown here.