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 Weight||Aprroximate Thawing Time|
|Aprroximate Thawing Time|
|4 - 12 lbs.||1 - 3 days||2 - 6 hours|
|12 - 16 lbs.||3 - 4 days||6 - 8 hours|
|16 - 20 lbs.||4 - 5 days||8 - 10 hours|
|20 - 24 lbs.||5 - 6 days||10 - 12 hours|