June 21, 2024

Did You Know You Can Cook a Frozen Turkey?

As we approach Thanksgiving, we’re going to be highlighting food safety information from the USDA. The government is an excellent source of information for the Thanksgiving meal, with directions on how to smoke, deep fry, and grill turkey, as well as information about keeping food safe and storing leftovers correctly.

TurkeyA few years ago I received information from Dr. O. Peter Snyder of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul, Minnesota about cooking turkey from the frozen state. That’s right – cooking your turkey frozen! The USDA states that this method is very safe. And I have found it’s an excellent way to cook your turkey.

First of all, you don’t have to worry about thawing the bird. Many people thaw turkey in unsafe ways, primarily thawing it on the counter. It takes days and days for a large frozen turkey to safely thaw in the refrigerator. Even if you cook the turkey to a safe final temperature, if bacteria produced toxins while it was thawing at room temperature, those toxins are not destroyed by heat and may still make you sick. Second, this method prevents cross-contamination from turkey juices. Your sink and countertops will not be contaminated with raw turkey juice, which does contain pathogenic bacteria. And finally, this method produces an excellent result. The turkey is moist and tender and very juicy and flavorful. I’ve used this method many times with great success.

You can see detailed directions on cooking turkey from the frozen state at the USDA web site. It’s important to note that you must use the oven to cook the turkey. You can’t smoke, grill, deep fat fry, or microwave a frozen turkey or use an oven cooking bag or brown paper bag. The cooking time will be about 50% longer than standard turkey cooking times. And you can remove the giblets bag from the turkey about halfway through the process using a set of long tongs.

And remember that you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline if you have any questions. The number is 1-888-674-6854 and it’s open Thanksgiving Day from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm ET. The automated system “Ask Karen” has answers to many typical Hotline questions online. You can also submit a question or use a live chat.

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