Turkey Thawing Time Chart

Approximate time required to thaw whole turkeys by weight.

One of the biggest mistakes made when preparing a turkey for a holiday meal is not allowing enough time for a frozen turkey to defrost. With some turkeys approaching 20 pounds or more, they can take days to fully thaw at refrigerator temperatures.

In general, a frozen turkey will require approximately 24 hours for every 5 pounds at or below 40° F to fully thaw. In cold water, a turkey will require approximately 30 minutes per pound to fully thaw.

When thawing a turkey in cold water, make sure to replace the water with fresh, cold water every 30 minutes to avoid temperatures conducive to bacterial growth.

Below you'll find a handy chart with the approximate time needed to thaw whole turkeys either in the refrigerator (at or below 40° F) or in cold water.


Turkey WeightAprroximate Thawing Time
Aprroximate Thawing Time
Cold Water
4 - 12 lbs.1 - 3 days2 - 6 hours
12 - 16 lbs.3 - 4 days6 - 8 hours
16 - 20 lbs.4 - 5 days8 - 10 hours
20 - 24 lbs.5 - 6 days10 - 12 hours