Thawing a Turkey in the Refrigerator:
The preferred method of thawing a turkey is in the refrigerator. This takes up a lot of refrigerator space and it takes a lot of time. The larger your bird the more time it takes. With a very big turkey this can take days.
While thawing a turkey, leave your bird in its original wrap and place it on a tray in the refrigerator. Make sure the thawing turkey doesn't drip on other food items and contaminate them.
Thawing a Turkey in Cold Water:
The next best method of defrosting is to thaw the bird in cold water. Keep the turkey in its wrapper and place it in a tub or sink full of cold water. Change the water every half hour.
The general rule is that defrosting takes 5 hours per lb. in the refrigerator or 30 min per lb. in cold water.
6-8 pounds 30-40 Hours in Refrigerator or 3-4 Hours in Cold Water
10-12 pounds 50-60 Hours in Refrigerator or 5-6 Hours in Cold Water
14-18 pounds 70-90 Hours in Refrigerator or 7-9 Hours in Cold Water
18 pounds+ 90 Hours + going on to 4-5 days or 9 Hours Cold Water
Even though the refrigerator defrosting times listed above seem long, many people find that at the end of this period the turkey is still not totally defrosted. If you find that your bird is not completely thawed when needed, you can finish defrosting it in cold water before cooking it.
Remember to remove the giblet packet when the turkey is thawed enough to get it out. This is especially important if the packet is plastic. If the giblet packet is paper there is no harm in leaving the packet in the bird during the cooking process - but you probably want the giblets in advance for making the gravy if you make the gravy with giblets - Also remove the neck too... I heat up the giblets and neck in water and simmer for about an hour and share with family members for the neck and the dogs get the giblets...
I make my Gravy from the Turkey Stock...