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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cooking a Frozen Turkey

Cooking a Frozen Turkey
Contact: Barbara Ingham,

With all the other holiday preparations going on before Thanksgiving, it can be easy to forget to thaw the turkey in advance. So what to do when you wake up Thursday morning to an ice-cold bird? University of Wisconsin-Extension food scientist Barbara Ingham walks us through cooking a turkey straight from the frozen state.
“Cooking a 12-13 pound frozen turkey takes between five and five and a half hours at 325°,” Ingham says. “Don’t be tempted to rush the process by using oven temperatures higher than proven safe by university research.”

Place the unwrapped turkey on a rack set on top of a shallow baking pan, such as a jelly roll pan. According to research conducted by Dr. Peter Snyder from the University of Minnesota, air circulation is very important for an evenly cooked turkey. If you choose to use a roasting pan, use one with a tight cover and keep the lid on during roasting, or rotate the turkey during cooking to ensure even heating. Don’t worry about the giblets in the neck cavity or the neck in the center of the turkey; these can be removed during cooking, once the turkey has begun to thaw. The plastic piece that holds the legs in place is oven-safe and does not need to be removed for cooking.

Check the temperature of the breast meat after three to three and one-half hours and remove the giblet bag, if you have not done so already. Use a meat thermometer or oven-safe roasting thermometer for all temperature readings rather than relying on the pop-up thermometer in the turkey. After three hours, the breast meat should have reached about 120°. If you are cooking in an uncovered roasting pan with tall sides, turn the bird for even cooking. Return the bird to the oven and continue cooking until the breast, leg and thigh meat all register 165°, covering the breast as necessary to prevent over-browning and basting as desired.

Check the temperature every 20 to 30 minutes as you near the end of the cooking time to prevent over-cooking. “After about five hours, the breast, leg and thigh meat should reach 165° for safe serving,” Ingham says. After the meal, remove leftover turkey meat from the carcass within two hours, slice and place in shallow containers. Refrigerate other leftovers such as gravy and stuffing in shallow containers no more than three inches deep. Leftovers that are not eaten within two days should be frozen to enjoy later.

More information on roasting turkeys from frozen is available here:
A guide on thawing and cooking turkeys is available here:
Contact your county UW-Extension office for more information on preparing poultry as well as other food safety questions: 

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