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CLEVELAND (WJW) — Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means it’s time to thaw your turkey.

Depending on the size of your Thanksgiving bird, you may be running out of time to thaw it in the refrigerator, which is the safest method, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The USDA says turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature while thawing since any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can start to grow again when they begin to thaw. To ensure food safety, proper thawing is critical.

So how exactly do you correctly thaw a turkey?

According to the experts at Butterball, some folks probably should have started as early as Friday if planning to thaw their turkey in the fridge.

The USDA recommends allowing approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of bird (a 16-pound turkey calls for around four days in the fridge, for example). A thawed turkey will need to be cooked within two days.

If it’s already too late to thaw your turkey in the fridge, you can still thaw it safely in cold water or in the microwave. Both methods require cooking the bird immediately after thawing.

Tips to thaw in the fridge:

  • Thaw breast side up in an unopened wrapper on a tray in the fridge.
  • Allow at least one day of thawing for every four pounds of turkey.
  • Use turkey within four days after thawing.

The USDA says food thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, but there may be some loss of quality.

Cold water thawing takes less time but requires more attention. The USDA said the water must be cold to keep the turkey at a safe temperature.

Tips for cold water thawing:

  • Thaw breast side down in the unopened wrapper with enough cold water to cover your turkey completely.
  • Change the water every 30 minutes, and if the turkey cannot be completely covered, rotate it every 30 minutes to keep it chilled.
  • Estimate a minimum thawing time of 30 minutes per pound of turkey.

While microwave thawing is a USDA-approved method, you should check the owner’s manual for your microwave to determine if your turkey will fit.

The manual should also detail how many minutes per pound and the power level required to thaw your turkey correctly. Generally, allow six minutes per pound, and be sure to rotate it frequently while thawing.