It is never safe to thaw a frozen turkey at room temperature. A turkey left to thaw at room temperature runs the risk of developing bacteria, making it unsafe for consumption. Safely thaw a frozen turkey in the refrigerator, under cold water in the sink or in the microwave.
Thawing a turkey in the refrigerator is the easiest method, but it takes the longest amount of time. To use this method, place the turkey on a tray in its original packaging, breast-side up. This prevents any juices from leaking out into the refrigerator. Leave the turkey in the refrigerator for four to five hours for every pound of turkey. For example, a 10-pound turkey needs to sit in the refrigerator for about two and a half days. A 25-pound turkey requires about six days of refrigerator thawing.
Another option is to thaw a turkey under cold water. This method requires a good amount of work, but takes much less time. To thaw the turkey this way, leave it in its original packaging, and place it into a sink or pot filled with cold water. Do not use hot or warm water, as this causes bacteria to breed. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. It takes about five hours to thaw a 10-pound turkey or about 12 hours for a 25-pound turkey.
If you have a sufficiently sized microwave, you can thaw the turkey by removing all of its packaging and placing it inside a microwave-safe container. Defrost the turkey according to the microwave's manual, and cook it immediately after thawing.