How to Cook a Frozen Turkey

Happy Thanksgiving!  Time to cook that bird, and this time you don’t need to thaw it first.  That’s right, you can roast a turkey starting frozen — straight from the freezer.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve procrastinated cooking a turkey (or chicken) because I kept forgetting to plan ahead for thawing time.  I’m so glad I discovered an easier way, and I’m going to tell you how.

There are some advantages of cooking a frozen turkey.  First, you don’t have to plan days ahead to account for thawing time.  Second, you free-up refrigerator space because you won’t have a huge bird in there thawing.  Third, you don’t have raw turkey juices running and dripping all over your kitchen (or even your fridge if there’s a tiny hole in the wrapper — speaking from experience).  Ew.  Fourth, you will also free-up space in your oven for making other side dishes (as long as you’re using a slow cooker for your turkey).

There are also a couple of disadvantages of starting with a frozen bird.  First, you won’t be able to stuff the turkey, but you can make stuffing in a separate casserole dish and bake it in the oven or crockpot.  Second, you can’t brine or inject your turkey with flavorings.  There is some debate on whether or not those are needed anyway.  Third, you’ll have to set a timer so you remember to remove the giblet bag, since it’s frozen inside the turkey when you start.

What you will need are a frozen turkey, roasting pan (or large slow cooker), meat thermometer (with a good battery), and some heavy duty rubber kitchen gloves.

Prepare your roasting pan or slow cooker by lining with foil.  Preheating the oven or slow cooker isn’t necessary.  Unwrap the turkey and place in pan.  Sprinkle with your favorite seasonings (I used salt, pepper, garlic, and onion) and if you like roasted vegetables, add them as well (potatoes, carrots, whole onions, etc.).  Cover the turkey.  If you’re using a slow cooker, put the lid on.  If you’re using the oven, cover the roasting pan with the lid or foil.  In my experience, a covered bird is a juicy bird.  Turn the slow cooker on to 325 degrees, put turkey in a 325 degree oven.

The cooking time will depend on the size of the bird — usually around 15 minutes per pound.  Then add 50% more cooking time for a frozen turkey.  I used a 17 pound turkey, which would cook for about 4 hours thawed.  Since I started with it frozen, I added 50% more cooking time, which totals about 6 hours.  Be sure to set a timer so you can pull the giblet bag out, probably about 2 hours into the cooking time.  Use your heavy rubber kitchen gloves for this because the bird and pan will be HOT.

I checked on my turkey after 5 1/2 hours of cooking and it was plenty done.  The legs moved easily in their sockets, and the pop-up breast thermometer was up.  I didn’t test with a meat thermometer because the battery in mine died, but the temperature of the meat should be about 180-185 degrees.  When the turkey is done, take it out of the oven (or turn off slow cooker) and let it rest for about 20 minutes.  During this time you can use some of the meat juices to make gravy.

I have not tried cooking a frozen turkey in an oven — only the slow cooker — so I’m assuming that it’d work just as well.  Since cooking time is approximate, you need to make sure to check for doneness.  If you try this in your oven, let me know how it works out for you.  Have a very happy Thanksgiving!