Once you've mastered buying and handling a whole turkey, you may need to freeze it. Thawing a turkey later in a sink full of cold water is easy, but it's not safe to leave it in the sink to thaw overnight.
When it comes to thawing times, we recommended to thaw a 4- to 12-pound turkey in cold water for 2 to 6 hours, a 12- to 16-pound turkey for 6 to 8 hours, or a 20- to 24-pound turkey for 10 to 12 hours. (About 30 minutes per pound.)
The water should be changed every 30 minutes, so it would not be practical to do this overnight. Thawing your turkey during the day allows you to place the turkey back in the refrigerator until cooking time.