It's probably time to start thawing your turkey. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says turkeys need about 24 hours in the refrigerator for every 4 to 5 pounds. But there food safety guidelines give us another option. Allow about 30 minutes per pound for cold water thawing, changing the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. A turkey thawed in cold water should be cooked immediately.