Get your plans in writing, including your menu, how many people will attend, any special dietary needs of guests and what time you plan to serve the meal. Buy the turkey early, and look for a bird with a pop-up timer in the breast, which ensures proper cooking time. Learn more at volkenterprises.com. Thawing the Turkey Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator for 24 hours per 5 pounds in weight. For example, a 20-pound bird takes four days to thaw.