Cook Frozen Turkey for the Holidays:
No Thawing Needed!
You've probably heard 100 times that to cook frozen turkey is a big no-no. You end up with unevenly cooked meat, they say. And an overall disaster. You've got to thaw, thaw, thaw that turkey, or you're doomed!
Dramatic, right? But what happens when you wake up Christmas or Thanksgiving morning only to discover that either the turkey was never taken out of the freezer, or that you have an only partially thawed turkey. Do you have to have hot dogs for your holiday meal, or is there any way you can cook frozen turkey successfully? The answer to that question is --time to breathe a sigh of relief--"YES." But you have to do it right!
Hopefully, it won't come down to this for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and you'll have the time to thaw a turkey properly in the refrigerator. But if not, these instructions combined with a great recipe for roast turkey will give you a very nice result.
10 Simple Steps to Cooking Frozen Turkey
1. Calculate your approximate cook time.
You're going to have to cook frozen turkey longer than normal to allow for thawing while baking (about 50% longer is a good estimate). To help calculate this, you'll need to know cooking times for a thawed turkey, which we have here.
Whatever time you end up with, leave just a little extra time, in case your frozen turkey takes a little longer.
2. Preheat the oven.
When you're ready to start cooking your turkey, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
3. Prepare the turkey.
Next, you'll need to take your frozen turkey out of its wrappings. You won't be able to season it effectively yet unless it's already partly thawed-- you can do that later. If you're cooking a completely frozen turkey, you won't be able to remove the bag of gizzards, etc., either. There are also instructions for doing that later, too.
4. Prepare the pan.
To start to cook frozen turkey, begin by preparing a shallow roasting pan as you would for any other turkey. Why a shallow pan? It's especially important for a frozen turkey to thaw evenly as it cooks. Put a little chicken stock in the bottom so the turkey stays moist and the turkey drippings don't start to burn. Make sure to replenish the stock as it cooks away.
You'll also want to think about what kind of seasoning you want to use on your turkey. Though, at this juncture, you won't be able to really season the turkey (it won't do much good), it's a good idea to assemble what you'll need for later.
5. Pop it in.
Tent your turkey with aluminum foil. Because it'll be in the oven quite a lot longer, you don't want to burn the skin in the process. Then pop it in the oven and forget about it... for quite a long time.
6. Test its progress.
You will know your turkey is progressing well if the temperature in the legs reaches about 100 degrees after about 2 2.5 hours.
7. Remove the bits and pieces.
In about 3 3.5 hours the legs of the turkey should reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees. The breast should be reading only about 45 degrees. Remove the bird from the oven. You should now be able to get the bag containing the heart, neck, and liver out of the center of the turkey.
NOTE: While leaving the bag in while you start to cook frozen turkey does increase the risk of contamination, these parts should still be relatively frozen (or at least cold9. If you plan to use the heart and gizzards for turkey gravy, you'll want to finish defrosting them outside the bird and cook them thoroughly.
8. Stuff and Season.
If you plan to stuff your turkey, you can do it at about the same time you take the packet of gizzards from the bird. Remember, though, that you'll need heat-proof gloves as the turkey will be hot and you can burn yourself easily. Even if you don't plan to stuff the bird, you'll want to season it. I'd suggest using one of the recipes here in my Ultimate Holiday Turkey Recipe Guide.
NOTE: If you do decide to cook frozen turkey stuffed, remember to increase your estimates on cooking times even more. Stuffing generally adds a good 30-45 minutes to the whole process.
9. Cook & baste til done.
Continue cooking the turkey, basting if the turkey recipe
you've chosen calls for it, until the thickest part of the breast reaches 165-170 degrees. If you want crispy, golden-brown skin you'll need to remove the foil tenting for the last 20-30 minutes of cooking, during which time you can also baste the bird.
10. Remove and rest.
Remove your turkey from the oven and let it rest for 20-30 minutes. Carve your turkey (you can find instructions for carving a turkey here
) and enjoy!
Drawbacks to Cooking a Frozen Turkey
Many people wonder if when they cook frozen turkey it will come out as good as one that's been thawed before cooking. And it does... almost! In fact, cooking a frozen turkey may even make for a moister bird-- people who have tried this method generally end up with a turkey that's very juicy.
However, you do tend to lose a bit of flavor. Cooking a turkey from a frozen state does not give the meat as much flavor as you could get by seasoning a fully thawed bird before roasting it. The seasoning doesn't have quite the same ability to permeate the meat, and things like brining, etc., aren't really an option.
Safety Concerns when You Cook Frozen Turkey. The Food and Drug Administration says that baking a turkey this way is safe, and it certainly saves time and eliminates the potential of getting raw drippings in your refrigerator as the turkey thaws.
And if you're in a panic... it really works!
Free Newsletter and Monthly Downloads
Sign up for my free newsletter, and get a free e-cookbook or other fun download sent right to your inbox every month. Plus, you'll get access to all kinds of goodies you won't find on the website!
Want your download now? You'll get a free Crockpot Cooking eCookbook just for signing up!
Sign up below.