This week I'm honored to pass along an article from a study conducted by O. Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D. about a new way to roast your Thanksgiving turkey: put it in the oven frozen solid. Dr. Snyder is the president of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul, Minnesota. You cook turkey from the frozen state. That's right - it goes into the oven frozen completely solid. I've used this method many times now and have the best results. The turkey is beautifully moist and tender and perfectly browned. And it's so nice to not have to worry about thawing that huge bird!
Cooking Turkey From the Frozen State
A common problem on Thanksgiving is waking up on Thanksgiving morning and realizing that the turkey has not been thawed, and there is not enough time to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator or in flowing water at 70ºF, which takes hours.
However, there is a very simple solution – cook the entire turkey from the frozen state. The FDA Food Code allows this, and turkey hotlines suggest it. The following is a HACCP-based procedure for cooking a 12-to-13-lb. frozen turkey.
Start 5 to 5 1/2 hours before you want to serve the cooked turkey. Set the oven temperature at 325ºF. It is much better that the turkey be done 30 minutes before mealtime than to rush and serve an undercooked turkey. Remove the wrapping from the turkey and put the turkey on a rack on a pan that has been covered with foil to make cleaning easy (Fig. 1). You can also cook the turkey in a covered roasting pan if you have one.
Put the turkey in the oven (Fig. 2). Do not worry about the bag with the heart, liver, etc. in the neck cavity or the neck in the center of the turkey. They can be removed during cooking, after the turkey thaws. There will be Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter jejuni on the turkey. However, because it is frozen, there is no drip, and transfer to hands or counter is not a significant risk.
Cooking the turkey on a shallow pan on a rack assures even cooking. Cooking in a pan with sides shields the bottom of the turkey from heat, and the cooking on the bottom will be non-uniform.
In the first 2 to 2 1/2 hours, the legs and thighs get up to approximately 100ºF. The breast, about 1 inch into the flesh, is still at the soft ice point, about 25ºF. At this point, begin to monitor breast temperature with a tip-sensitive digital thermometer as it thaws. You may also use a dial roast thermometer. Insert it into the breast, because it is the slowest cooking part.
After about 3 1/2 hours, the legs and thighs will be around 150 to 160ºF, and the breast, about 40 to 50ºF. The bag of heart, liver, etc. and the neck can be removed at this time, to be made into stock, if desired (Fig. 3).