From WVU Today:
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Preparing a Thanksgiving turkey requires planning. Thaw your frozen bird too early and you could unknowingly serve your guests a foodborne illness. Leave it in the freezer too long and it won’t be ready for the big day.
“There are three safe ways to thaw your frozen turkey. One way is to put it on a pan in the refrigerator. Another way is to put it in a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink full of cold water — and you would need to change the water every 30 minutes. The third way is in your microwave oven, following your microwave oven manufacturer’s instructions.”
“You never want to thaw your turkey in the trunk of your car, in an empty sink or on the counter, on your back porch or in your basement. Yes, people really try that.”
“If you choose to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, the thawing times depend on the weight of your turkey. If your turkey is 4 to 12 pounds, it will need one to three days to thaw. If your turkey is 12 to 16 pounds, you will need three to four days to thaw it in the refrigerator. If your turkey is 16 to 20 pounds, you will need four to five days for thawing. And, if your turkey is over 20 pounds, expect five to six days to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey.”