How to Cook a Frozen Turkey

  • 01 of 06

    How to Cook a Frozen Turkey Step 1 - Gather the Ingredients

    Turkey in fridge
    Michael Pohuski/Getty Images

    Cooking a frozen turkey can yield a moist and juicy bird that is, in some ways, safer to cook than a thawed turkey, because you have fewer (if any) juices leaking in your refrigerator or on your countertops. It's these raw juices that harbor harmful bacteria, so the more you can avoid them, the better

    The most important thing to remember when cooking a frozen turkey is that it will take about 50% longer than a regular thawed turkey. So, for a 12-13 lb. turkey, it will take about 4-1/2 to 5 hours,...MORE versus 3 hours for a thawed turkey.

    The key to cooking a frozen turkey is to make sure the turkey is completely frozen - a partially-thawed turkey is not safe to cook.

    Start by assembling your ingredients. You will need:

    • 1 8-18 lb. frozen turkey
    • onions, carrots, celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 2-3 cups water
    • olive oil or melted butter
    • poultry seasoning
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  • 02 of 06

    How to Cook a Frozen Turkey Step 2 - Unwrap the Turkey

    unwrap the frozen turkey
    Unwrap the Frozen Turkey. Stephanie Gallagher

    Once you see how easy it is to cook a frozen turkey, you may never go back to thawing the turkey again! The first step is to preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

    Place a clean cutting board on the counter and place the frozen turkey on top of the board. Use kitchen shears to cut the wrapping away from the frozen turkey.

    Place a turkey rack in a shallow roasting pan (compare prices). Place the frozen turkey on the rack. Don't worry about the plastic bag of giblets at this point. You will take...MORE that out in a few hours, once the inside of the turkey begins to cook and you can pry it loose.

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  • 03 of 06

    How to Cook a Frozen Turkey Step 3 - Add the Vegetables to the Roasting Pan

    place the vegetables in the roasting pan for the frozen turkey
    Place the Vegetables in the Roasting Pan. Stephanie Gallagher
    The next step in cooking a frozen turkey is to place the chopped vegetables in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add 2-3 cups of water to the pan. I find that when I'm cooking a frozen turkey, I need more water in the roasting pan than I do when I'm cooking a turkey that has been thawed. I assume this is because the turkey doesn't make many drippings during the first few hours of cooking, as it is still thawing in the oven.

    Now place the turkey in the preheated 325-degree oven, and roast for 2-3...MORE hours.

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  • 04 of 06

    How to Cook a Frozen Turkey Step 4 - Rub the Turkey with Oil or Butter

    brush the frozen turkey with oil or melted butter
    Brush the Turkey with Oil or Melted Butter. Stephanie Gallagher

    Cooking a frozen turkey is similar to roasting a thawed turkey in some ways. In this step, for example, remove the turkey from the oven and brush it with the olive oil or melted butter. Now sprinkle the poultry seasoning on the turkey.

    You can try to remove the plastic bag of giblets at this point - do it gently with tongs - but unless the turkey is small, you will probably need another hour of cooking before the inside of the turkey is thawed enough to remove the plastic bag. That's okay.

    If...MORE needed, add another cup or two of water to the bottom of the roasting pan.

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  • 05 of 06

    How to Cook a Frozen Turkey Step 5 - Remove the Bag of Giblets

    remove the plastic bag of giblets from the turkey
    Remove the Plastic Bag of Giblets from the Turkey. Stephanie Gallagher

    The most important step in cooking a frozen turkey is to remove the plastic bag of giblets from the turkey cavity. You won't be able to do this at the beginning, because the bag will be frozen to the interior of the turkey. But after the turkey has been cooking for a 2-4 hours, you should be able to remove it.

    Important! Use tongs to remove the plastic bag. If the bag of giblets is a paper bag, don't worry about it. It's safe to leave it inside the turkey. Try to scrape the top of the...MORE inside of the turkey cavity with the tongs to loosen the plastic bag (in case it's stuck). Then pull out the bag with the tongs. Reach around the other side to see if there is another plastic bag inside the neck. You will need to remove that, too.

    Do not leave the plastic bag(s) inside the turkey. If you can't remove it now, put the turkey back in the oven, and try again in a half hour. Discard the bag of giblets, or use it to make turkey gravy.

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  • 06 of 06

    How to Cook a Frozen Turkey Step 6 - Finishing Cooking the Turkey

    Turkey dinner
    kajakiki/Getty Images

    The last step in how to cook a frozen turkey is to return the turkey to the oven (you can baste it first, if you like) to finish cooking.

    The cooking time for the turkey depends on the size of the turkey. A 12-13 lb. turkey will take about 4-1/2 to 5 hours. A 14-18 lb. turkey will take 5-3/4 to 6-1/2 hours.

    The only safe method for determining whether a turkey is finished cooking is by testing it with an instant-read thermometer (compare prices). Do not rely on the turkey's pop-up timer (they...MORE aren't accurate). Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh.

    The turkey is ready when the instant-read thermometer registers at 165 degrees F.

    Important: Let the turkey rest at least 30 minutes before carving. This allows the turkey to retain its moisture.

    Also, do not try to stuff a frozen turkey. Do not try to microwave a frozen turkey or thaw a turkey on the countertop. None of these methods is safe. 

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