Be sure to thaw your frozen turkey in the wrapper it came in, unopened. Place it breast-side up on a tray in the refrigerator. Here’s a chart you can use to determine thaw times.
(in the refrigerator)
|8-12 lb. ||2-3 days
|12-14 lb. ||3-3½ days
|14-18 lb. ||3½-4½ days
|18-20 lb. ||4½-5 days
Once thawed, your turkey will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. Bearing that in mind, err on the side of thawing a day or two too soon so you don’t have to do a last-minute thaw. Also, if you plan to brine your turkey you need to plan a day for that.
If you do procrastinate, you can thaw your turkey in cold water. Place the still-wrapped turkey in a container large enough to allow it to be covered with water. Fill the container with cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. This method will thaw a turkey at the rate of about 1 pound every 30 minutes. An 18-pound turkey will take 9 hours. That’s why it’s best to plan ahead!
NEVER thaw a turkey out on the counter or in warm water - you could create the perfect environment for bacteria and end up with a family trip to the emergency room instead of a family weekend of fun.