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Cooking A Frozen Turkey

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Don’t panic, I know you want to! Someone, (I know it wasn’t you), forgot to get the turkey in the refrigerator to thaw!!

You’ve never dreamed of cooking a frozen turkey, but here we are!! Just hang in there, you’ve got this, cooking a frozen turkey can be done!

frozen turkey on a baking sheet

Forgot to Thaw the Turkey!

Just this image of a frozen turkey on a baking sheet could cause major anxiety. I mean, who really plans on cooking a frozen turkey?

I know, no one, but life happens and maybe you couldn’t get that turkey until the day before you needed it, so here you are with an ice block of a bird.

It is perfectly safe to cook a turkey from frozen, according to the USDA, so put that worry out of your mind!

Put aside your dreams of the award winning, juicy turkey you were dreaming of. Cooking a turkey from frozen does not give you the same texture of a beautifully brined and roasted turkey, but it will still be delicious and everyone will devour this turkey and praise your name.

Let’s get to it!

frozen turkey on a baking sheet

How to Cook A Frozen Turkey

First, get that turkey out of the freezer, if it is anything like the one I cooked here, it will be frozen solid.

Remove all of the wrapping from the outside of the turkey, the bag in the cavity of the turkey will stay put for now. Heat the oven to 325ºF.

While the oven is heating up place the frozen turkey onto a baking rack that has been placed on a baking sheet. This will allow for heat to go all around the turkey and still allow for the drippings to catch on the bottom of the pan below the bird.

frozen turkey

At this point, you are just concerned about getting that turkey in the oven and cooked, don’t worry about seasoning or rubbing mounds of butter under the skin.

Place the frozen turkey into the 325 degrees Fahrenheit oven and set your timer for 2 1/2 hours.

If you want to check on the turkey, turn on the oven light and look through the door, don’t risk losing any heat from the oven by opening the door to check on the bird. Just let the oven do its thing.

Just be sure to check that the plastic bag is not melting, your turkey might not be as frozen as mine was.

pan of butter, apples, lemons, rosemary, sage and thyme

About 10 minutes before your 2 1/2 hour timer goes off, you are going to prepare a little seasoning butter to rub all over the turkey.

In a pan over medium high heat, melt 1/2 cup butter. Add in chopped apples, lemons, fresh rosemary, thyme and sage.

If you don’t have fresh spices, you can use dried, just substitute one teaspoon of dry spices for the fresh.

Bring butter to a simmer and allow to cook until the apples begin to get tender and the lemons are heated through. You do not want to put anything cold into the cavity of the turkey, we are trying to heat that bird up, not keep it cold.

partially cooked turkey from frozen

After 2 1/2 hours, remove the turkey from the oven and using tongs, remove the packet from the cavity of the bird. This should remove easily.

Once you have removed everything from the cavity of the turkey, brush the outside skin with the butter making sure to get it all over.

Place the apples, lemons, spices and any remaining butter into the cavity of the turkey, using caution as the apples and lemons should still be really hot. Season the skin with salt and pepper.

At this point you can also remove the timer that came in the turkey, the best way to check for doneness is with an instant read thermometer, especially when you are cooking your turkey from frozen.

cooked turkey, image taken from neck side

Place the turkey back into the oven and cook for another 2 1/2-3 hours. This is going to depend on the size of the turkey you are cooking.

The turkey I cooked for this recipe was 13 1/2 pounds and took a total of 4 1/2 hours to cook start to finish.

After you have brushed the turkey with butter and placed back into the oven, check the temperature after one hour of baking, just to see where you are at. You can also use some of the pan juices to bast the outside of the turkey.

Cooking a frozen turkey will take about 50% longer than cooking a fresh turkey, so plan accordingly and have good snacks for your guest while they wait for this deliciousness to be done.

What Temperature is Turkey Done

The turkey is fully cooked when the temperature on your instant thermometer reads 165ºF in the thickest part of the breast.

The wings and thighs should read at 175-180ºF.

baked turkey surrounded by lemons, pomegranates, spices and apples

Tips for a Frozen Turkey

  1. Just remember, this turkey was cooked from frozen and won’t be the tender, juicy brined turkey you might be used to. However, it will still be flavorful and delicious. Your family and guests will be amazed that you through this together from a solid block of ice turkey.
  2. Stuffing a frozen bird is not an option and would not be food safe, so if you would like to make stuffing, it will need to be done on the side.
  3. It will take 50% longer to cook the turkey from frozen
  4. Do not leave your turkey out on the counter or anywhere else to thaw. If you are cooking a frozen turkey, go straight from the freezer to the oven.
  5. If you feel the skin is getting too crispy and the turkey has not reached temperature, cover the outside with foil until done
  6. Always use a thermometer to check the temperature of the turkey, this is the safest and best way to make sure your turkey is fully cooked.
  7. Allow to rest 15 minutes, tented with foil before carving
turkey on a wooden cutting board

Great Turkey Side Dishes:

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baked turkey surrounded by lemons, pomegranates, spices and apples
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Cooking Frozen Turkey

Cooking a frozen turkey can be done and still make a delicious turkey, perfect for any family dinner.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time4 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 20
Calories: 342kcal


  • 13-14 pound frozen turkey
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 gala apple, sliced into quarters
  • 1 lemon, sliced into quarters
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig sage
  • 1 tablespoon salt or to taste preference
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper or to taste preference


  • Heat oven to 325ºF. Prepare a baking sheet by placing a baking rack in the center.
  • Remove all packaging from the outside of the turkey, leaving the bag of giblets in the cavity of the frozen turkey.
  • Place the turkey on the baking rack and place in the oven with the oven rack in the center position.
  • Set a timer for 2 1/2 hours.
  • 10 minutes before the timer goes off, place the butter in a pan and melt over medium heat. Add in the apples, lemons, thyme, rosemary and sage. Bring to a simmer and cook until the apples and lemons are heated through.
  • After 2 1/2 hours, remove the turkey from the oven. Take out the packet from the center cavity of the turkey, It will most likely still be frozen. Remove any other plastic pieces and the thermometer in the turkey
  • Brush all over the outside skin of the turkey with the melted butter. Place the hot apples, lemons, herbs and any remaining butter into the cavity of the turkey. Season the outside skin of the turkey liberally with salt and pepper.
  • Place the turkey back into the oven. Check the temperature of the turkey again after another hour and then each half hour after until done. When checking, spoon some of the pan juices over the top over the turkey.
  • The turkey is done when the thickest part of the breast reaches 165ºF and the wings and thighs reach 175ºF.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.


  • Nutrition facts are just an estimate
  • if you feel the skin is getting too crispy and the turkey still hasn’t reached the right temperature, cover the outside with foil and continue to cook until done. 


Calories: 342kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 45g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 163mg | Sodium: 275mg | Potassium: 486mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 264IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Holidays
Keyword: Cooking Frozen Turkey, Frozen Turkey
Tried this recipe?Please Rate and Leave A Comment Below!

Cooking a frozen turkey can totally be done, no need to stress or fear that dinner is ruined. With a little bit of extra time and a few spices, dinner can be saved. Cooking a turkey from frozen is actually easier than you might think!

cooked turkey

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