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November 18, 2008

Honey, I forgot to thaw the turkey – and other holiday woes (and how to work around these)

We have all been there and done that – forgotten to thaw the turkey for the big turkey day. No need to throw it in the dryer, soak it in boiling water, or get out the hair dryer for a quick defrost! It is okay, and actually safer in many ways, to cook the turkey from a frozen state. A frozen turkey will not have juices spread around the kitchen as you un-wrap the package, open the refrigerator handle or wipe up the spills with the one kitchen sponge. You will not waste water and utility costs as you try to thaw it. Even better, thawing as part of the cooking process will still produce an excellent and juicy product.

What about the giblets and other stuff stuffed inside the bird’s cavity? What about the plastic leg holders? Easy enough – just leave them on for about the first 3 hours of cooking, and then remove. If the giblets are wrapped in a paper bag, they can be left until the turkey is done.

Won’t this take all day? Of course cooking time will depend on size of your turkey, but a 12-14 lb bird should reach proper temperatures after about 5 ½ hours.

Think food safety on this special family day. Everyone becoming ill is not a shared experience that will be fondly remembered. So be sure that the final temperature of the deep portions of the turkey (legs/thigh joints or deep breast) reach 165°F minimum. Actually, The Turkey Federation recommends that the temperature reaches 175° to 180°F in the leg/thigh portion for quality purposes,

Panic attack over? Here is what you need and what to do to cook a frozen turkey.

Equipment/Supplies: A food thermometer (bimetallic quick-read or digital quick-read)
Shallow baking pan and rack large enough for your turkey
Aluminum foil
Turkey 12-15 lbs
Oven pre-heated to 325°F.
Procedure:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 325°F making sure that the shelving will fit the turkey (middle shelf).
2. Line the shallow baking pan with aluminum foil and place the rack in the pan.
3. Wash your hands and unwrap the frozen turkey and place the turkey on the rack.
4. Put the turkey into the oven and bake.
5. At 3 hours, see if you can remove the giblets package and leg holders using tongs
6. At 4 to 5 hours, measure temperature at deepest point in breast. Minimum temperature should be 165°F before removing from oven. If not at 165°F, leave in oven.
7. When 165°F is reached in the breast, remove the turkey from oven and place a foil tent over it. Let it rest for 20 minutes before carving.

That was easy! Now after enjoying your feast be sure you avoid leaving the leftovers out – try to get in refrigerator within two hours. A tip to be sure you avoid bacterial growth during cooling is to use smaller containers. This is a win –win because now your guests’ food packages are ready to go!

WARNING: Do not FRY a frozen turkey – the amount of moisture hitting the hot fat will lead to a serious fire hazard. Plan ahead if that is your preferred cooking method

Enjoy the day!
Submitted by Sam Beattie and Catherine Strohbehn