How do I safely thaw a 20# turkey breast? no space in fridge

Middle River, MD

I have a 20# turkey breast, yes just the BREAST! Must've been a frankenturkey or something.
I have a mental image of this Dolly Parton-esque turkey falling forward and not being able to right itself :) ridiculous!
Imagine the catcalls!

Anyway, I need to thaw this thing because it's been in the chest freezer since Christmas. My father in law brought us so much food last year that we actually had to go out and buy a freezer! This was one of the things in the stash.
I've been neglecting it because I haven't the foggiest idea how to thaw it without the fridge because it wont fit!

I do have a big cooler and I was thinking that would work, maybe with one of those HUGE ziptop bags (are they food safe?) and a bunch of ice. maybe I could brine it in there too after it's thawed since i'm going to all that trouble.
I'ts 90 degrees here now so i'd need alot of ice to keep the tepms at a safe level (40 deg i think) but it would probably take a week.
any better ideas?
or should I wait till my fridge is almost empty?

Also have to figure out how to cook it.
so far to make and freeze
turkey croquettes
turkey noodle soup

to make and eat till it's gone or goes bad
turkey sandwiches (my favorite)
can I slice like for sandwiches and then freeze?

Just got an Excalibur food dehydrator for my b day and want to make some turkey jerky too.

any help will be appreciated.


So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Rachel, you could thaw it in a cooler, but it seems like I remember reading on one of the brining threads that you could brine something frozen. That might be the best of both worlds. I intend to brine my heritage Thanksgiving turkey frozen... it would have been better last year if I had started with it frozen, as it thawed too quickly and then I had to store it a day before cooking it.

Your turkey brings to mind the old story about a young housewife who was putting a whole ham in the oven, but she first cut off the short end. Her husband asked why and she replied because her mother always did.

A phone call to her mother elicited the same response: because her mother always did. Grandma was still living, so they called her. Her answer was they cut off the end because a whole ham wouldn't fit in their small wood-fired oven!

Many years ago I lived in Middle River. Small world.

Katy, TX(Zone 8b)

If that turkey breast were mine, I would defrost it in the "cooler" with ice in there - just enough to keep the breast cold. I would think it would take about 3 days to thaw. I would assume that you would thaw it in the house. Keep a a good thermometer in the the cooler and keep the cooler good and cold but above freezing. Siphon out or pour out the water each day or twice a day.
When you get ready to cook this bird, be sure and wash and dry it well; rub well w/ butter and peanut oil; sprinkle salt, pepper, poultry seasonings and any other seasonings you like on turkey all over this baby; have a big roaster w/a trivet in the bottom and stick the dude in there w/a meat thermometer stuck in the meat and not touching the bone, cook @ 325-350 deg F until done. Take out of oven and let the turkey set for 30 minutes. Then slice what you want to eat immediately, cut the rest into chunks that can later be sliced and freeze those chunks tightly wrapped in double heavy duty plastic and marked as to the contents and weight.
I say that's how I would do it. In all honesty, tho, I would never buy a huge chunk of turkey breast.


Middle River, MD

I remember hearing that story when i was a new housewife. I think my Bubboo told me.

I will definitely look into brining frozen.

You didn't live in Hawthorne did you?

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Nope, Wilson Point.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

I have never understood, we add salt to the ice to make ice cream to make the ice colder, but we salt roads to melt the ice? Pretty versatile stuff.

I agree, thaw it in a cooler kept inside. If you wash the cooler well, I see no reason why you can't brine it during the thawing process, just keep adding ice to keep the temperature around 40 degrees and then cook thoroughly.

We generally slice up all that we want for sandwiches at one time and divide it into individual packets for the freezer.I use Tupperware (or any well sealing plastic container) to store the wrapped packets in. This gives an extra layer of air-tight seal and can be labeled so you don't have to stand on your head to find things in the chest freezer. I do the same with what I chop up or shred for use in other dishes.


Missouri City, TX

If you dont want to cook the whold thing, you could take it to a a meat market and have them cut it onto smaller pieces with their bandsaw, and rewrap each piece.

We have done that (at our restaurant) when we only had 10-20# bison roasts and customers wanted 3-5#.
It was cost effective for us and the customer.

Middle River, MD

Plantlady, I would never buy a chunk of turkey that big either. My FIL brought it for us. It was surplus from his church.
I think I will do just what you have suggested with the thawing and cooking, minus the butter tho. my 1 yr old has a milk soy protein intolerance - he screamed nonstop for the first ten months of his life - whole nother thread.
moonhowl your right about the salt weird stuff huh? so the sandwich slices do freeze well if well protected. do they thaw mushy or watery?

darius, off topic, but this area has changed so much in just the 7 years I've lived here. There is now a beautiful waterfront park on wilson point just behind the apartments, Hawthorne just got a brand new bike trail ringing the peninsula, wilson point will be next for their bike path to connect with ours via the little tiny pedestrian bridge that used to go from hawthorn to martin marietta. The soil toxin testing is completed and Martin lagoon and it's shores will be turned into boat slips, retail, boardwalk, restaurants and a hotel. Middle river depot is slated to become a community center and museum and white marsh boulevard now extends to eastern ave.
There will be $1mil. condos going in on the essex side of the middle river bridge on eastern ave.
Both of the nasty apartment complexes on eastern/stemmers (riverdale and village of tall bugs) were torn down the one on stemmers is a great park complete with a police station and the riverdale was made into single family homes and a mars shopping center. Cardboard city (cemesto homes on compass rd) were torn down and replaced with new single family homes. and Hawthorne is no longer the dump that it was. There's always a few losers who screw it up for everybody else, now there are less of them. this neighborhood has improved significantly since we moved in. less crime, people taking better care of houses etc.

So much is happening on this side of the county and as you can tell, I'm very excited about it. Partly because dh and I are involved in the process via our civic organization.
For so many years the east side got nada from the county. Now they're realizing just how valuable all of that waterfront property really is.
I grew up in Parkville so I had a major prejudice against this area. until I moved here. Nothing beats waking up in the morning to look at the river's shiny reflection on your wall. Being able to hear herons and ducks. smelling the water with the windows open. aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh
We got a steal on this house, end of group townhome with a waterside view. I am now spoiled and will never be able to live away from the water again. it just gets into your bones.

OK , Back on topic

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Rachel, I thaw the packets in the refrigerator and then dry the slices with a paper towel to get rid of any excess water and store in zipper bag in the meat drawer.

The slices are not at all mushy or watery. That is why I use a larger plastic container for them, it helps prevent freezer burn and the build up of ice crystals that degrade the meat.

Middle River, MD

moonhowl, I think I'll try your method too. there are so many things I can do with turkey, but sandwiches really are my favorite. Now I can enjoy them for more than a few days.
so much better than deli turkey breast!

now off to find the frozen brining directions.

St. Helens, OR(Zone 8b)

If you want to use one of the huge ziploc bags inside your cooler to contain the brine, you can. They're usually found with the clothes hangers, garment bags and such, not with the food storage bags.

All ziploc bags are food-safe, regardless of size or where they are shelved in the store.

I use them for turkey brining all the time.


Middle River, MD

Carolinorygun, Good to know about the ziploc bags. Seems like a nasty chore to remove raw turkey juice from a cooler I plan to use for ice later. lots of scrubbin'. yuck.

My store carries them right next to the food bags.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

You still need to make sure the cooler is good and clean so you don't run any risk of contamination. After you finish, rinse the cooler with a little bleach added to the water. Makes sure to avoid possibility of salmonella.

Middle River, MD

moonhowl, i planned to do that too, just seems like it may take a little less effort to clean it if it's not completely covered in brine and raw turkey. I'll wash it before, and give it a bit o bleach afterwords. salmonella is nothing to fool around with. excellent point.
Now if I could just get the darn thing unearthed from the depths (of course it's at the VERY BOTTOM) of my chest freezer.
OY VEY, this thing is huge, i may need a winch or maybe dh's safe moving rig!
dh is on call tonight, but if he ends up coming home for dinner, I may ask him to help me hoist it out.

thanks all, cant wait to get this thing thawed and cooked.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Good deal, LOL. That is the only drawback to chest freezers, you have to be part he-man and part spelunker to get to anything....grin. That is why mine is full of plastic containers holding wrapped stuff.

Middle River, MD

Moonhowl, you are funny ROFLMAO!
I love the mental picture - I see he-man complete with a headlamp and ropes and clips strapped to his criss cross chest plate thingie, sword up in the air (by the power of greyskull...).
oddly enough, he's still in that brown speedo.
He probably won't fit the speedo as well after diving into my freezer tho ;) brrr.

dh has jobs all night, guess I'll go freezer spelunking by myself after the kids are in bed. You actually reminded me that I do have a headlamp. I may actually use it for this as the freezer is in a dark corner of the basement.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

But do you have your battlecat to guard you while you are up-side down in the freezer cavern? You wouldn't want to give Skeletor a shot at a wedgie......Grin

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

philsgal, how did your brining turn out? have you cooked your turkey yet?

Middle River, MD

Nope,it went into the cooler a few hours ago! Battlecat couldn't make it till today :)

I'm planning on making a version of the Alton Brown honey brine with the following changes:
half sea salt half kosher salt instead of all kosher
my homemade poultry stock instead of veg broth
I'll wait till it's about 85% thawed, then do the brine till the inside reaches 40 degrees. I'll allow a day for air drying then I will be grilling that bad boy with some hickory chips for smokin'. maybe a honey glaze or something too.

I am drooling on my keyboard as we speak!!!! mmmmm turkey.

I'll post how it turns out.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Sounds wonderful. Alton Brown and I agree on about 99%....couple of his recipes aren't to my families liking. They prefer our old tried and trues...grin

High Desert, CA(Zone 8a)

this recipe has been tried in the recipe forum for several yrs. [2001 to present] here in DG

we came a long way, lots of DG members also made lots of contribution. maybe u can pick up a few tips here and there.

no need to thaw the frozen turkey, thawing in the brine give the turkey it's unique very flavorful taste. in fact, u won't need gravy or any condiment after u fix it as the recipe recommend.

hth ... ma vie

St. Helens, OR(Zone 8b)

Remember if it's an "injected" turkey breast, you won't derive much benefit from brining because there's already solution in the meat.

I use a brine of brown sugar, kosher salt, apple cider, peppercorns, cloves, orange peel and a bit of fresh thyme then do a short smoke on the grill before finishing conventionally. I really like the apple cider with poultry.


Middle River, MD

Thanks, MaVie. Turkey still has two days to go to finish thawing. so I have some time to tweak the brine. Thanks for the link, i've got some more ideas going!

Middle River, MD

carolinorygun, like the cider idea too. I usually use that for my pork butts.

Middle River, MD

The brine ended up as follows had to use what I had on hand
homemade poultry stock
all kosher salt no sea salt too $$
brown sugar
can apple juice concentrate
lemon thyme &
pineapple sage both from the garden of course
garlic powder

cooking that beast today!

This message was edited Aug 10, 2009 2:54 PM

St. Helens, OR(Zone 8b)

Your brine sounds wonderful. I can't wait to hear how the turkey turns out.

I don't know what access you have to international stores, but I buy Korean sea salt from Uwajimaya, which is an Asian grocery. Very good, just pure salt, and very very cheap.

For brines, though, I use Diamond Crystal Kosher. I used Morton's once. Huge mistake.


Middle River, MD

thanx, i have an international grocery down the road that I have been meaning to stop into. I'll look for it.

Just slapped that bad boy on the grill an hour ago.
glad i'm not cooking inside today way too hot for that.

Middle River, MD

Just finished grilling and resting.

Missouri City, TX

Pictures please - you are too far away to ask for a sample - lol.

Middle River, MD

Sorry , no food po#n.
Just picture the nice mahogany color, smell the hickory smoke. see the slightly pink smoke ring ahhhh... It took me and my mom to get this thing off the grill.

DH decided to go be all American on me and went to Ben Cardin's town hall meeting last night. Really he was there for both of us, but I was on my own at home. We're such extremists!
I was caring for a turkey and two screaming kids. Had to get cut, wrapped & frozen before it sat out too long. the turkey, not the kids that is. so unfortunately no pictures.
It yielded 3 packs of sandwich slices (2-3 very generous sand each) some of these slices were as wide as a corelle dinner plate and almost as long.
a few pounds of chunk meat for whatever, maybe tetrazinni
a pound or so of the meat on the bottom was overdone, this thing was really too big to achieve true indirect cooking in the grill, so that will end up as croquettes tonight.
and a big carcass with lots of meat for when the weather cools down enough to get the stockpot bubblin' and make some poultry stock. I didn't realize just how many bones I had accumulated over the course of the year! that's gonna be one stuffed stockpot!

I will be using the meat off this thing for a while, But I will never cook one that big again. it was hard to handle and very unwieldy. I didn't have any appropriately sized anything. I put it on the roaster after out of the grill and It reminded me of the flintstones when she made a roast it was way too big for the roaster it looked silly. It was so big it would not fit on my counter so I had to do what little trimming I did in the brining bag. Definitely did a hack job.
at least it tasted divine.

thanks for all the tips. this turkey was kind of a collaborative effort.
Next to conquer, very large pork butt. at least I can cut that one in half!

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Glad it all worked out for you and you didn't need the battlecat to rescue you from the freezer...grin

London, United Kingdom

You could always buy a fresh one and pluck it! Then you would not have that problem, for such a dry and tasteless thing.
Try a Goose it tastes amazing and the fat is the best cooking fat in the World!
From the Turkey innards you can make a half decent gravy!

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