TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s almost time to gobble ’til you wobble this Thanksgiving, and if you’re the one cooking dinner this year, 8 On Your Side has some tips on how to do so safely.

The United States Department of Agriculture has information on three different ways to safely thaw a Thanksgiving turkey. As soon as the bird starts to get warm, bacteria that may have been present before freezing may begin to grow again.

The three methods USDA lists are in the refrigerator, in cold water and even in the microwave.

Refrigerator thawing

The USDA recommends thawing your turkey in the refrigerator so it thaws at a consistent, safe temperature.

USDA said the method does take some time and one day should be allowed for each four to five pounds of weight, meaning if your turkey weighs 16-lbs, it will take about four days to thaw.

When the turkey is thawed, it is safe in the refrigerator for another two days, so you can start thawing that 16-lb turkey six days before Thanksgiving.

Cold water thawing

This method of thawing must be done immediately prior to starting to cook a turkey and will have to wait until Thanksgiving morning, according to the USDA.

For this method, a turkey should be left in its original wrapping and be submerged in a sink or container full of cold water.

“It is important that the water be cold so that the turkey stays at a safe temperature,” the USDA said.

The water must be changed every 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes of defrosting time per pound should be left for this method, so a 16-lb turkey would take eight hours to thaw.

Once the turkey has thawed it should be cooked immediately.

Microwave thawing

This method of thawing also must be done immediately before cooking a turkey.

“Before you commit to thawing your turkey in the microwave, check your owner’s manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound and the power level to use when thawing a turkey,” the USDA advised.

All outside wrapping should be removed from the turkey before placing it on a microwave-safe dish. The microwave’s “defrost” function should be used based on weight.

The USDA said as a general rule, allow six minutes per pound when thawing a turkey with this method. Be should be sure to rotate the turkey several times and even flip it during the thawing process.

If the turkey starts to cook instead of defrosting, let it rest for five minutes before resuming thawing.

“Partway through thawing you may wish to cover the tips of the wings and drumsticks with a small piece of foil to shield them from the microwaves and keep them from cooking,” the USDA said.

The USDA said the following methods are not recommended to thaw a turkey:

  • On the counter, in the garage or on a back porch
  • In a brown paper grocery bag or plastic bag
  • Using the dishwasher with or without water
  • Any other method

The USDA said it is also perfectly safe to cook a turkey from its frozen state, it will just take at least 50% longer to cook.

The bird must measure 165-degrees Fahrenheit in the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast before serving.