Placing a frozen turkey in the refrigerator is the only reliable and safe method for thawing and it is the only method of thawing that is recommended. The turkey should be kept in its original wrapper during the thawing process and it should be placed on a platter to catch any juices that may leak from the package. Thawing the bird in the refrigerator may require several days, especially if the turkey is a large size, but it is absolutely the safest method for thawing. The cool temperature of the refrigerator (usually no higher than 40°F) discourages the growth of harmful organisms in the turkey as it thaws. 24 hours for every 5 pounds defrosting time should be allowed to properly thaw the turkey. The required time may vary because of the individual temperature settings of different refrigerators.
Recommended Refrigerator Thawing Time
Cold Water Thawing (Not Recommended)
Thawing a frozen turkey in cold water is another defrosting method that has been used for years, but with increased awareness of illness do to bacterial growth, it is generally not recommended. There is a good chance that bacteria may rapidly multiply in thawed areas near the surface of the bird while the interior may still be frozen.
If you absolutely must thaw the turkey with cold water, there are a few steps that can be taken to make it as safe as possible:
Cold Water Thawing Time
Microwave Thawing (Unsafe)
Some people have used a microwave oven for thawing meat and while this method may be risky for thawing red meat, it is downright unsafe for thawing poultry. While waiting for the bird to fully defrost, bacteria will grow quickly in areas where the turkey is already defrosted.