Can You Cook A Frozen Turkey? Yes You Can, Here’s How To Cook A Frozen Turkey For Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is suddenly here and you find yourself with a completely frozen turkey with no time left to defrost the bird in time for your big dinner. Is this a catastrophe as your mother-in-law will most likely suggest, or can you still have a delicious turkey dinner? You can use this opportunity to cook a frozen Thanksgiving turkey and decide for yourself if this frozen cooking method really does offer up a juicier bird, as some veteran cooks suggest.

If your bird is completely frozen or just partially frozen, you can cook it up for your Thanksgiving dinner and you may be surprised just how good this turkey is going to taste. You will need to adjust the cooking time from what appears on the turkey package, as your frozen bird is going to take a little longer in the oven than a fully defrosted turkey would.

A good cook is safety-minded and this method of cooking a frozen bird follows the FDA Food Code, according to an MIT-educated food safety consultant in a study on the cooking of frozen turkeys from the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management. From a “certain standpoint,” cooking your turkey frozen it is considered a “safer method” because you won’t have the turkey “dripping salmonella-laden juices all over your sink and countertops,” writes The Spruce.

They also suggest by cooking your turkey in a frozen state that you will find the turkey breast usually moist and juicy. Turkey breasts have a tendency to dry out, but it is not likely to dry out when you cook a frozen bird. Some veteran cooks have known this for years and they prefer to cook their turkeys frozen.

Cooking a frozen bird does come with a few more steps than a turkey that’s defrosted before it goes in the oven, but they aren’t overly time-consuming and the steps are easily accomplished. One of the first dilemmas you come across when your turkey is frozen and about to go into the oven is how to get the neck, gizzards, and sometimes gravy packets out of the center of the bird as they are frozen solid and they won’t budge. This is not a problem, you can take these out with ease after the turkey has been in the oven for three hours, suggests the experts. Follow the steps below for a perfectly cooked frozen turkey this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Turkey Slices
[Image by Bochkarev Photography/Shutterstock]

Word of Caution: Never deep-fry a frozen turkey. Slowly roast the frozen turkey in the oven on “bake” at 325 degrees Fahrenheit (F). A frozen turkey could cause the hot oil to explode if you attempt to fry it.

Prepare your frozen turkey for cooking:

Unwrap the bird before putting it in the oven. It is fine to leave the frozen giblets, neck, and gravy that are in the plastic packets in the cavity of the turkey. Do not put anything on the turkey at this time, just leave it uncovered and put it in a 325-degree F oven.

Seasoning and buttering the turkey:

After the turkey has been in the oven for two hours put your salt, pepper, and butter all over the top of the turkey along with your own special turkey seasonings if you chose.

Removal of the Giblets, neck, and gravy packet: Once your frozen turkey has been in the oven for about three hours, you should be able to remove them with ease. Put your bird in a preheated 325-degree F oven. The oven temperature will remain the same throughout the cooking of your frozen bird.

Cooking time for a frozen turkey:

Cooking a frozen turkey takes approximately 50 percent longer than it would if the turkey was defrosted. An example: Your 14 to 18-pound bird would normally take four hours to cook, so the cooking time will now go to six hours. Add another 35 to 45 minutes at the end so your turkey no matter how big or small it is so that it can rest on the counter before serving.

Turkey thermometer readings:

If you have a turkey thermometer it is suggested that you use it (the type you leave in the turkey as it cooks), according to the Spruce. After the turkey has been in the oven for two hours, you should be able to insert that thermometer. (If you don’t have one, just cook the turkey for 50 percent longer than the suggested time on the package for a defrosted turkey.)

Insert the thermometer into the deepest part of the turkey thigh. At this two-hour mark, it should register 90 to 95 degrees F. At the three-hour mark, it should be around 140 F. When the turkey is done, that reading in the thigh should read 175 – 180 F.

If your turkey has a pop-up timer this is still a good indication that the bird is done, even if you cooked it frozen. Those pop-up timers are designed so the lock mechanism of the pop-up melts once the turkey reaches a certain temperature. That button-like tool pops up indicating that the turkey is done.

Target end temperature is 165 degrees F registering on every part of the turkey with the thermometer, except the thigh, that should be at 175 F. When the temperature has reached 165 F with the rest of the turkey and 175 F at the thigh, this means your turkey is done. You can test this by poking the thermometer into several parts of the turkey, including the breast.

While the turkey is still in the oven cooking and it turns a deep golden brown, you could cover it with aluminum foil to guard against the skin become too dark as you finish cooking it. If you didn’t need to cover your bird while it was cooking, you will need to cover the turkey with the foil once removing it from the oven as you let it rest 35-45 minutes before carving the bird.

There you have it, one easy and safe way to cook a frozen turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner.

[Featured Image by Everett Collection/Shutterstock]