Cooking a frozen turkey without thawing it first has several benefits. There is no need to remember to thaw it ahead of time, there is no risk of contaminating your fridge or counter with salmonella-rich thawing juices, and the breast and dark meat, which in a pre-thawed turkey require different lengths of cooking time, are done to the perfect consistency if the bird goes into the oven frozen. But there are several things to remember when cooking a frozen bird. Here are some tips on how to cook a frozen turkey:
1. Allow enough cooking time
A frozen turkey of 12-15 pounds requires about five to five and a half hours to cook. A 20-pound turkey takes about seven to seven and a half hours. Although thawing time is not necessary because it goes straight from the freezer into the oven, the cook should allow enough time for the turkey to be properly cooked. It is recommended to have an extra half-hour available before the bird is to be served. The turkey can rest on a warmer for that long without losing flavor, and it’s better to have extra time than to be in a hurry and serve undercooked meat.
2. Stuff the turkey while it’s baking
The frozen turkey can be put in the oven while the giblet bag is still inside it. The bag can be removed once the turkey is sufficiently thawed, after three to three and a half hours at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point the turkey can also be stuffed. This also reduces the length of time the stuffing spends in the oven, leading to moister and tastier stuffing.
3. Have hot food handling tools ready
Because it’s necessary to take the turkey out of the oven after several hours of baking in order to remove the giblet bag and add stuffing, the cook will be handling the turkey while the pan and some parts of the turkey are hot. It’s recommended to have heat-resistant insulated gloves, a pad to place the turkey on, and other implements to assist handling hot food.
4. Use a meat thermometer
The dark meat will thaw and cook comparatively quickly, but the breast will take longer. When the turkey is cooked and safe to eat the breast temperature is about 165 degrees Fahrenheit, Even if the turkey comes with a pop-up timer, use a meat thermometer to check it from time to time and when it seems to be ready. Insert the tip of the thermometer at least an inch and a half into the breast, preferably two inches.
5. Use a shallow pan
A pan with high sides insulates the bottom of the turkey from the oven heat, and may lead to uneven cooking. It’s better to use a shallow pan that lets the whole turkey cook evenly.
Transferring a turkey straight from the freezer into the oven leads to longer cooking times, which can crowd a busy Thanksgiving or Christmas day. In terms of the fridge space and time saved on previous days, the convenience of not needing to remember to thaw the turkey, the greater safety of not having a thawing turkey drip on things, and the better results from having the dark meat and breast naturally cook at different rates, however, cooking a frozen turkey is a wise choice.