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How to Cook a Frozen Turkey Without Defrosting it First

Updated on April 3, 2015

Don't Worry. Your Holiday is Safe!

It's happened to just about every one of us: you wake up on Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter morning, and you realize that you completely forgot to defrost the turkey, and it is still rock-solid in your freezer! Never fear, there's no need to call up and order Chinese takeout: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued clear guidelines on how to safely cook an undefrosted turkey. In fact, not only is it safer to cook your bird from the frozen state, but you will run much less risk of contaminating your refrigerator and kitchen with harmful bacteria by leaving it frozen until you are ready to cook it.

Carving White Meat of Roast Turkey, by Steve Lupton
Carving White Meat of Roast Turkey, by Steve Lupton | Source

Steps to Cooking a Frozen Turkey

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place your rack in the roasting pan.
  2. Remove the wrapping. Rinse the turkey. Don't worry about the package for the neck, giblets, etc. right now. Just leave it inside and you can get it later on in the process.
  3. Place the turkey on the rack.
  4. Wash your hands and then put the pan in the oven. This way you can easily avoid any transfer of bacteria to the roasting pan.
  5. Wash out the sink where you rinsed the turkey to remove harmful bacteria.
  6. Prepare your stuffing, if desired.
  7. After two hours, the legs and thighs will be approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The breast will still be frozen. Season the meat at this stage, if desired.
  8. After about three and a half hours, the legs and thighs will be 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The breast will be around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Now is the time to use some tongs and draw out the neck and giblets.
  9. If you want to stuff your bird, now is the time to do it. Don't use your bare hands to stuff it--it will be very hot! Instead, use a spoon to put stuffing inside and pack it in. Don't overstuff.
  10. After four and one-half or five hours of cooking, the legs and thighs should be about 175 degrees Fahrenheit and the breast at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a safe temperature and at that point the bird can rest for slicing. (Meat needs to rest for ten to fifteen minutes after being cooked, and before slicing, to reabsorb the juices.) If you need to hold it hot, do so at above 130 degrees Fahrenheit. After you remove the turkey from the oven, you will have about four hours to eat it safely without reheating or refrigeration.

Whole Roast Turkey on Silver Platter, by Jon Edwards
Whole Roast Turkey on Silver Platter, by Jon Edwards | Source

By following these directions, you will have a wonderful roast turkey, with delicious moist breast meat, cooked without risk of bacteria all over your refrigerator and kitchen! Your holiday has been saved, and nobody need be any the wiser about your forgetfulness. So breathe a sigh of relief, bookmark this page for your next holiday disaster, and enjoy your time together with family and friends without guilt. They never need to know your little secret!


Submit a Comment

  • John Sarkis profile image

    John Sarkis 

    6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

    That's great to know. I actually slow cook my turkey at 325F, so I prefer that tempature anyway. Nevertheless, I don't think I'd forget to thaw my turkey, but good to know this in case I do.

    Take care


  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 

    6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    I never thought of cooking a turkey before it's totally defrosted. I always stuff mine and nice to know that this can also be done. Many times I'll just keep rinsing it under cold water, and then there's always a fight to get the neck and giblets out :)

    Up and useful!


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