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Food & Dining

Frozen turkeys can be roasted, too

Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 08:33 AM

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Q: Is it safe to roast a turkey from frozen?

A: Yes, if your turkey's still solid today, it is safe to stick it in the oven that way. Plan on adding about half of the usual roasting time when cooking a frozen bird. An unstuffed, 8- to 12-pound turkey thawed should need between 2½ and three hours in a 325-degree oven, so a frozen bird of the same size will probably need about 4½ hours. A 12- to 14-pound thawed bird needs three to 3¾ hours, so unthawed it will be in the oven 4½ to 5½ hrs.

If you have a dark roasting pan, like the old enamel ones, that will speed up the cooking. If you happen to have the dark lid to the pan, that will speed cooking even more. Using an oven bag will also speed things up.

Tenting the turkey with foil will slow down the initial cooking but is a good idea at least to start, because it helps keep the outer parts moist while the interior is still thawing. Remove the foil at the end so the skin browns.

Remember that the bag of giblets is still in the cavity, so in an hour or two you'll need to remove it. Use heavy tongs or heat-proof oven gloves, because the outside at least will be quite hot. Speaking from experience, having a helper hold the bird while you remove the giblets makes it much easier.

If you don't have one yet, get a meat thermometer today. You'll want to be sure the meat reaches 165 degrees to be sure it's safe. Check in the thickest part of the thigh, the breast and under the wing, with the tip of the thermometer not touching bone. Even if the turkey you purchased has a pop-up indicator it's a safe idea to check with a thermometer, too.

Let the turkey sit for 10 to 20 minutes after it's out of the oven to let the juices and meat stabilize. The meat will be moister, and it will be much easier to slice.

Q: Do I have to slice all the meat and take it all off the bone when I refrigerate the leftover turkey? I expect to need only half a turkey for our main meal, but would like to keep the other half intact for the following day.

A: You can safely refrigerate half a turkey. You need to get it in the refrigerator within two hours of the time it comes out of the oven. And be sure you have room in the refrigerator to hold the pan. It would cool faster if you can set it upright, breast up the way it was roasted. If you used any dressing or stuffing, be sure to remove that before refrigeration. Any stuffing, meat, gravy or other leftovers that are on the table or counter and not refrigerated for more than two hours should be discarded.

If you expect to have lots of other leftovers, as well as half the turkey, it would be a good idea to make advance arrangements for another refrigerator. Putting too much hot food in it at one time will warm whatever else is in there and possibly make it unsafe.

A better option would be to only make the amount of side dishes you'll use at the first meal, and make fresh for the second one. That way you won't overload or overheat the refrigerator.

If you freeze leftovers, slice the meat, divide the side dishes into containers less than 3 inches thick, and chill them before you put them in the freezer. You don't want to warm the freezer either.


Mary. A Keith, a licensed dietician and health agent at the Hillsborough County Extension, can be reached at mkeith@ufl.edu.

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