To thaw a turkey, place the turkey, in its original wrapper, breast side up on a tray, and place it in the refrigerator. Be sure the refrigerator is set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, and allow the turkey to thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours per 5 pounds.
Alternatively, place the turkey in a leak-proof bag, and submerge the bag in cold tap water. Change the tap water every 30 minutes to ensure the water stays cold enough. Warm or hot water allows harmful bacteria to grow on the outer surface of the turkey. Plan to leave the turkey in cold water for 30 minutes per pound of turkey until it is completely thawed.
To defrost a turkey in the microwave, check the owner's manual for the power level and time needed to fully thaw the turkey based on the weight of the bird. Unwrap the turkey completely, and place it on a tray to catch any juices during defrosting. This is the fastest method, but you must cook the turkey immediately after thawing.
Do not thaw the turkey by leaving it out on the counter at room temperature or by submerging it in warm or hot water. In these scenarios, the outer layer of the turkey gets too warm, and harmful bacteria can grow on the surface of the bird. It is also possible to cook a frozen turkey, but it takes longer than a thawed turkey.