Turkey Thawing Hints from the National Turkey Federation

Turkeys can be thawed using one of three methods, but the easiest is in the refrigerator.
Plan ahead and allow approximately 24 hours for every four to five pounds of bird weight for thawing in the refrigerator. This method is the safest and will result in the best finished product.
Place the bird, in the original wrapping, on a shallow baking sheet in the refrigerator.
This chart provides good guidelines for thawing times.

Refrigerator Turkey Thawing Time (40 degrees F)
Turkey Weight Days to Allow for Thawing Turkey
8 to 12 pounds 2 to 2.5 days
12 to 16 pounds 2.5 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days

If you need to thaw the turkey more quickly, you may thaw the bird in COLD water, in the original wrapping.
The cold water must be changed every 30 minutes. Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound using this method.

COLD Water Turkey Thawing Time
Turkey Weight Hours to Allow for Thawing Turkey
8 to 12 pounds 4 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours

The third safe method for thawing a turkey is in the microwave. Follow the manufacturer's directions and roast the turkey immediately after thawing.