Can you defrost a turkey in the microwave?

In this brief guide, we will address the query, “Can you defrost a turkey in the microwave?” We will also discuss the microwave setting, container used, and the disadvantage of microwave defrosting.

Can you defrost a turkey in the microwave?

Yes, you can defrost a turkey with the help of a microwave. Defrosting meat with the help of a microwave is not one of the most preferred techniques when compared to the refrigerator method or the cold water method.

However, the microwave method is the easiest and the quickest way to defrost turkey or meat, as it does not require a lot of planning and can be used to defrost the turkey quickly.

What are microwaves?

Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic waves or radio waves that interact with the water molecules in the food and that is the mechanism by which the food starts to defrost or heat.

Microwaves that are produced by the magnetron present in the microwave react with the water molecule present in the food in the form of vibration which creates heat thereby heating the food.

Foods that have high water content heat faster when compared to foods containing lower water content. From the above, it is clear that the heat is produced directly in food but microwaves cannot cook food inside out. 

While cooking thick food like the turkey, the microwaves do not cook the inner parts, the microwaves produced cook the outer part, and the inner part of the turkey is cooked due to heat conduction.

Microwave cooking can be more energy-efficient than conventional cooking methods as in the microwave oven the whole oven is not getting heated but only the food that is kept inside. There are reports or debates about cooking in the microwave.

There are recent reports that suggest that the nutritional value of the food remains the same when compared with conventional cooking methods. 

There are also some reports that suggest that the nutritional value is better when cooked in a microwave as there is no extra water to be added while cooking in the microwave.

What types of containers can be used in the microwave to defrost the turkey?

The container material is very important while placing food and microwaving it. All types of plastics cannot be used while microwaving food as some plastics have a lower melting point when compared to others which could lead to the melting of the plastic directly into the food.

Metallic containers and aluminum foils are also not preferred while defrosting or heating food with the help of a microwave. This is because the metallic containers and aluminum foils do not allow the microwaves to pass through them and this might be hazardous to the microwave oven and the food as well.

The most preferred materials are glass, ceramic, paper, and certain types of plastic. The heat felt on the containers made of one of the following materials is not because of the materials heating up, it is due to the heat produced from the food that is present inside it.

How to defrost a turkey using the microwave method?

The microwave method is the one in which the turkey can be defrosted using the microwave, the turkey has to be removed from the packaging and put in a microwavable plastic/container, and then using the defrost function the turkey can be defrosted. 

The time required for the turkey to defrost depends on the thickness. Generally, it takes about 6-8 minutes for one pound of turkey. The thicker the turkey the longer the time. 

Sometimes, if the meat is very thin there are also chances of the meat cooking halfway through which might change the color, and texture and ultimately change the taste of the turkey.

The main criteria to keep in mind while using the microwave method is that the defrost function should be working properly. If the microwave does not have a defrost option the best alternative is to run the microwave on 30% or 50% less power than the usual. 

The turkey needs to be flipped or rotated several times during the duration of defrosting. Failing to flip or check the turkey in between defrosting can lead to overcooked turkey or meat.

The turkey cannot be left outside for a few hours before cooking and has to be cooked right away as the temperature is higher and this might help the bacteria to grow on the surface of the turkey which is harmful for human consumption and might lead to foodborne illnesses.

The drawback of this method is that the turkey needs to be cooked immediately and then can be refrozen if required. 

Other FAQs about Turkey that you may be interested in.

Can you cook a turkey at 500 degrees?

Can you cook the turkey at 350 degrees?

Can you cook the turkey at 300 degrees?

Can you cook a turkey at 150 degrees?


In this brief guide, we have addressed the query, “Can you defrost a turkey in the microwave?” We have also discussed the microwave setting, container used, and the disadvantage of microwave defrosting.