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How long does it take for a turkey to thaw?    

According to the USDA, when thawing your turkey in the refrigerator, you'll need to allow 24 hours for every four to five pounds. Don't bother with the math–here's a table:

  • 4 to 12 pounds: 1-3 days
  • 12 to 16 pounds: 3-4 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds: 4-5 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds: 5-6 days

When you thaw your turkey by submerging it in cold water (changing the water every 30 minutes), allow about 30 minutes per pound. For the math averse:

  • 4 to 12 pounds: 2 to 6 hours
  • 12 to 16 pounds: 6 to 8 hours
  • 16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds: 10 to 12 hours.

See Turkey 101 and Top Turkey Questions Answered for more turkey tips for Thanksgiving or any holiday gathering, and if you need a recipe, see our collection of turkey recipes.

Ask the Expert: Cooking Turkey