Turkeys weigh upwards of 10 pounds. They are almost always sold frozen solid and thawed slowly over 2-4 days in a refrigerator. You can also thaw a turkey using the cold water method in the sink, but that requires far too much hands-on work and wasted water for this cook.
If you plan to brine your turkey, you’ll want to factor in an extra day so that the turkey can sit in the salt water overnight or at least 4 hours before you roast it. You don’t want the turkey in the brine for more than 12 hours, so plan accordingly.
What’s the lesson here? No matter how you’re going to do it, you should start thinking now about how you’re going to thaw the turkey now. If you’re using a fridge, you should put the turkey in there this weekend or no later than Tuesday.
It’s worth noting that the USDA says you can use a microwave to thaw a turkey, but many cooks don’t know that you can actually cook a frozen turkey, unthawed. The baking time will be at least 50 percent more than if you’d thawed it, so think 4 to 6 hours instead of 2 or 3.
Which method do I use when I roast a turkey? Because I have a small fridge and the cold water method wastes too much water and it too tedious, I thaw turkeys in a cooler packed with water and ice bags three days before I plan to roast the turkey. When it’s time to brine the night before, I place the turkey in one of those big plastic zip-top brining or roasting bags and put the bag in an emptied vegetable drawer.