Turkeys can be thawed using one of two methods. The safest method for thawing a turkey is to defrost in your refrigerator. The key to this method is to plan ahead and allow approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of bird weight for thawing in the refrigerator. Keep the bird in its original packaging, on a shallow baking sheet in the refrigerator.
If you need to thaw the turkey more quickly, you may thaw the bird in cold water in a clean sink or container in its original package. The cold water must be changed every 30 minutes to keep cold enough for safe thawing. Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound using this method. Never leave turkey unattended for more than 1 hour.
The following charts provides good guidelines for thawing times:
Refrigerator Turkey Thawing Time (40ºF.)
Turkey Weight => Days to Allow for Thaw
8 to 12 Pounds => 1 to 2 Days
12 to 16 Pounds => 2 to 3 Days
16 to 20 Pounds => 3 to 4 Days
20 to 24 Pounds => 4 to 5 Days
COLD Water Turkey Thawing Times:
Turkey Weight => Hours to Allow for Thawing Turkey