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!
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.
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!
How to Cook A Frozen Turkey
First, get that turkey out of the freezer, if it 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.
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 heated 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
The turkey is fully cooked when the temperature on your thermometer reads 165ºF in the thickest part of the breast. The wings and thighs should read at 175-180ºF.
Tips for a Frozen Turkey
- 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.
- 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.
- It will take 50% longer to cook the turkey from frozen, so plan your meal accordingly
- 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.
- 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.
- Allow to rest 15 minutes, tented with foil before carving
Cooking a Frozen Turkey Recipe
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Cooking Frozen Turkey
- 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
- salt and pepper
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!