It’s unsafe to thaw a frozen turkey at room temperature. Two safe ways to do so are in the refrigerator or in cold water. See the chart below for estimated thawing times.

Whether you have a frozen or fresh turkey, cook it within 1 or 2 days of purchase, or after thawing.

In the Refrigerator (40°F or Below)

Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds.

  • 4 to 12 pounds: 1 to 3 days
  • 12 to 16 pounds: 3 to 4 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds: 4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds: 5 to 6 days

Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.

In Cold Water

Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound.

  • 4 to 12 pounds: 2 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

Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze.

Tune in tomorrow for information on cooking times.

Information and photo courtesy of the USDA