Can I cold-water thaw and brine a turkey at the same time?

I’m roasting a turkey for a Xmas Eve party tomorrow afternoon at 3:30. I was a day late putting the bird into the fridge to thaw – it’s been in there since Monday night, but I’m worried that it won’t be completely thawed in time, so I’m going to do the cold-water bath method and thaw it the rest of the way this afternoon.

I don’t actually make turkey very often – this is my first one in several years – so I thought I’d ask my fellow Dopers a few questions.

[ul][li]Considering it’s already been thawing in the fridge for over 36 hours (it’s a thirteen-pounder), how much time should the water-bath take? I’ve read to allow 30 minutes per pound, but that’s for a completely frozen turkey.[/li][li]I was going to brine the turkey. Do I have to leave it in the wrapper while it’s thawing, or can I … ahem… kill two birds with one stone?[/li][li]The finished turkey meat will be sliced and offered for sandwiches, not carved to order. Is there any reason not to go ahead and roast and dismantle it tonight? Will it dry out or suffer otherwise in the fridge overnight? [/ul][/li]Thanks!

Just to clarify, 3:30 is when the party is – the turkey will need to be ready and sliced before then.

Understand this is a completely WAG here…

It’s recommended that it takes 5 hours per pound to thaw in the fridge. In that case, it’ll take 65 hours to thaw out your 13 pounder.
It’s been in there, what, 40 hours? that’s about 2/3 thawed at this point.

It takes 30 minutes per pound to thaw in cold water. At 13 pounds that’s 6.5 hours.

So 1/3 of that would be a little over two hours.

So my recommendation would be a cold water bath for 2.5 hours, subbing out the cold water every half an hour.

Brine & thaw will work

Kill THREE birds with one stone. Cover the turkey with salt, and put it in the ice space of your ice cream maker. The turkey, assisted by the salt, provides the latent heat of fusion to freeze the yummy, yummy ice cream, and thaws and brines itself at the same time!

Thanks for the detailed timing WAG. I did a brine/thaw on a turkey a couple of years ago, and will likely do it again this year. I use a small cooler filled with ice water to stretch the time between water changes.

So is the point of the water changes just to keep the temperature down? Could I add ice instead? Because if I have to change the water every half hour and I’m trying to brine as well, that’s a LOT of salt to go through.

That is a concept of evil genius. I don’t have an ice-cream maker, unfortunately.

This is what I did for Thanksgiving, and it worked out really well.

I wouldn’t slice the bird in advance, even brined, the meat is likely to dry out.

No comment, other than to gently suggest the OP turn in his dopername.

I believe it’s the opposite, it’s to bring the temperature up. That turkey will bring the water almost down to freezing.

Brine and thaw overnight in the refrigerator will work fine. If it were out of the fridge, you’d have to worry about temperature getting to warm. If your turkey were completely frozen solid, there would be a small chance of it still not thawing, or not thawing soon enough to take up the brine. I did almost exactly the same thing with a 13 pounder on Thanksgiving. My bird was sold as fresh, not frozen, but clearly had some icy spots.

Another way to speed cooking, whether of a thawed, or I suppose, incompletely-thawed bird is to use hot stuffing. Real hot. My wife can cook a small turkey in just a couple hours while still satisfying our daughter’s telltale thermometer*.

    • Do you know what a pain in the ass it can be to be married to a woman who has a weak constitution (or “untrained,” as I see it) and therefore is wary of food poisoning, and whose sister is a health inspector, and whose daughter has similar training and is living with a guy with the same who is also a vegetarian and a germophobe? “Something’s been in the fridge for three days? Throw it out!” No, it just needs to be slapped around a bit. (Ever imagine a germ in a microwave as the water inside it both cooks the cell membrane into hard but fragile protein while the boiling innards expand?

I have trained my body** and taught it that, as a temple of the Holy Spirit, it has dominion over all the vermin that crawl upon our food and, even if they have manifested themselves upon our foodstuffs, one need only cut off the green parts. As a former Virginian I know that’s how you first treat a Smithfield ham. Mom didn’t know that, nor was she familiar with the changes of water needed to soak out the salt. Mom makes good Christmas cookies, German potato salad, and Hot Dish. She also makes better Egg Fu Yung than the Chinese around here (secret? fry it, not deep fry it, and use real pork gravy). She also makes a good pre-cooked ham, though I mostly associate cloves with the clove oil dad had me put on cold sores, and Grandma’s watermelon pickles. However, she doesn’t know from raw ham.

** - Through multiple, irresponsible, assaults. I probably told you of Wife’s patient in the ER who was another fat man and who said, “That Italian sausage was a few days past its freshness date so I cooked and ate it all.” That wasn’t me.

Just thought I’d give you folks a turkey update: In the end, I didn’t brine it – I just cold-water thawed it for three hours (remember, it had been thawing in the fridge for about 40 hours already) and then put the bird back in the fridge overnight after patting it dry with paper towels. This morning I put a quartered onion and a handful of celery trimmings into the (rinsed and emptied) body cavity, rubbed the skin with kosher salt, and roasted it at 375 for about three and a half hours. Folks, it was the most juicy, delicious turkey I ever did; everyone was amazed at how moist the white meat was. The skin wasn’t as attractive as it could have been, but as I was pre-disassembling the turkey anyway it didn’t matter.

Ouch! That’s cold. :slight_smile:

Heck, EVERY chef has SOME gaps in his or her culinary knowledge. Turkey-roasting just happens to be one of mine.