Can you cook a frozen turkey? You sure can say the experts. For the cook who gets up Thanksgiving morning to find their turkey still frozen solid because they forgot to take it out of the freezer, don’t panic. By cooking your bird frozen you may even find that you get a juicer turkey out of your forgetfulness.
Then there are the cooks who find themselves with a semi-frozen turkey on Thanksgiving morning despite all their efforts to get that bird defrosted in time for the holiday dinner. So what do you do? According to Kmaland.com on November 25, experts say that there is no problem with cooking a frozen bird. It is even suggested for those who don’t have the room to thaw a turkey properly to actually plan to cook their bird frozen, so this means it is a safe, tried and true method.
For those of you who accidentally find themselves with a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving morning, all is not lost. First of all take a deep breath and remember that you are in good company because one of the most asked questions every year from the Butterball hot-line is “How do you cook a frozen turkey?” The Butterball folks were on “Fox and Friends” live on Thanksgiving morning and the frozen turkey question is a Thanksgiving tradition.
Kmaland reports that Barb Fuller, who is a Nutrition and Wellness Program Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, said that it is safe to cook the turkey with that packet of giblets still frozen inside. Remember to fish them out half-way through the cooking process and toss them away. Fuller said, “if you aren’t going to use them for anything, it doesn’t hurt them to cook in there.”
Never cook a turkey in an oven that is less than 325 degrees because if the oven is set at heat that is too low, you have the chance of bacteria growing. This is an important reminder from Fuller for all the cooks out there today. For your frozen turkey, it is just as simple as adding some extra cooking time. “If it’s a turkey that may take four hours, one-and-a-half times longer would be six hours,” said Fuller. This is what you would add in time to fully cook your turkey.
When you have a turkey that would normally take 4-hours to cook thawed, then you need to cook it 6-hours, which is “one-and-a-half times longer” to cook the bird, said Fuller. You take the time that your turkey would need to cook when thawed, which is usually found on the label, and divide those hours in two. This will give you the amount of extra hours you will need to cook your frozen bird.
For example: If your turkey would need 3 hours to cook, dividing the 3-hours in two gives you 1.5 hours. You would need to cook your turkey for an extra 1.5 hours or 4.5-hours in total if it is fully frozen. It may be less if the turkey is only semi-frozen, but that is where the meat thermometer comes in handy. Cook your frozen or semi-frozen bird at 350 degrees for the best results.
Fuller finds the only way to tell if a turkey is fully cooked and ready to come out of the oven is by using a meat thermometer, even if the bird has a pop-up timer. The meat thermometer is especially helpful if your bird is stuffed.
Fuller said for timing “It needs to be 165 degrees in the stuffing in the middle of the bird.” The Butterball experts also say the same thing, and both recommend a meat thermometer even if your bird has a pop-up timer. According to The Press Enterprise, Butterball experts say the thigh should be 180 degrees and the breast 170 degrees for the end temperature.
Because you are cooking the turkey longer than usual, you want to keep an eye on the skin of the bird so it doesn’t burn. When it is the desired golden brown color, cover the bird with aluminum foil for the remainder of the cooking time. Letting your bird stand for 30 minutes before carving is also something the experts suggest.
For 30 years the folks at Butterball have manned a help-line for Thanksgiving turkey questions and they are there again this year. If you have a question about preparing, cooking or serving your turkey, it is as simple as picking up the phone to get an answer from the Butterball Turkey Talk Line at 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372).
The Butterball expert on “Fox and Friends” said they get a few bizarre calls each year, like “will the oil from my chainsaw taint the turkey.” This call came from a man who said he carved his turkey with a chainsaw. Some ask how to get that tan-look in a shape of a bikini on their turkey. That is simple enough to do, just cut out a bikini for your bird with aluminum foil for those bikini tan lines!