A Step-by-Step Guide for How to Cook a Frozen Turkey

Last Updated on December 6, 2022

As the holidays are approaching, it’s an excellent time to brush up on all the different ways you can cook a turkey. Especially knowing how to cook a frozen turkey can come in handy.  

Yes, You Can Cook a Frozen Turkey! 

The answer to one of the most common questions in the kitchen during the holidays is “yes.” Yes, it is possible to cook a frozen turkey without thawing it. Not only can you do it, but also you can do it in a way that yields tasty, moist turkey meat. 

If you know how to cook a frozen turkey, there’s nothing stopping you from serving a delicious, golden turkey in time for the big meal. With a little prep and some guidelines, anyone can have a completely frozen turkey ready for Thanksgiving dinner. We’ll walk you through it! 

How to Cook a Frozen Turkey 

Believe it or not, the process of cooking a frozen turkey is incredibly simple. Remove the wrapping and place your completely frozen turkey breast side up on a roasting pan. Cook on the middle or bottom rack of the oven at 325 degrees. The turkey will take longer to cook (at least 50% longer than thawed). But it will be done on time with some simple math.  

Approximate Cook Times for Frozen Turkeys 

8-12 pound turkey = 4 to 5 hours 

12-14 pound turkey = 5 to 5.5 hours 

14- to 18-pound turkey = 5.5 to 6.5 hours 

18- to 20-pound turkey = 6.5 to 7 hours 

20- to 24-pound turkey = 7 to 8 hours 

After the first 20-30 minutes of cooking, it’s a good idea to take the turkey out of the oven and remove the giblets. The giblets are the edible organs of the turkey. These are usually in a bag inside the cavity of the bird. They generally refer to the liver, heart, neck, kidneys, and sometimes the gizzard. 

Make sure there are no other plastic parts or packaging that may melt during the rest of the cooking time. Now is also a good time to apply a basting layer. Since the turkey was frozen initially, basting would not have penetrated the turkey’s skin. But now, the outermost layer of the turkey will have thawed and a baste can be brushed on. 

Once you put the turkey back in the oven, it’s a good idea to use a remote thermometer or do hourly internal temperature checks. Make sure to check multiple places on the turkey, especially the meatiest or thickest parts. At these temperature checks, you can also add another basting layer. 

Bake until all parts of the turkey reach 165 degrees, as measured with a food thermometer. This is the USDA-recommended internal safe temperature for turkey. This is important to make sure the turkey is safe to eat. After the entire turkey is fully cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving and serving. 

When cooking frozen, the outermost parts (the wings and legs) are going to be done cooking first. If you want, you can remove the turkey from the oven when the thermometer indicates these are done. And tuck the wings behind the breast meat. This is an optional step, but it will help make sure they don’t overcook and dry out while you’re waiting for the breast meat to finish cooking. 

What You Need to Cook a Frozen Turkey  

Thankfully, cooking a turkey frozen is one of the easiest ways to cook a turkey. There is little gear involved. A simple list of equipment is all you need.  

Basting a turkey is something we talk about in other articles. But there are so many different techniques for basting. You can’t go wrong with a prepared baste from butter, herbs, and spices. Especially for the first application, it’s a good idea to baste a buttery layer on the outside of the turkey.  

As the turkey continues to cook, you can use a baster to collect the juices from the bottom of the roasting pan. You may need to tip the turkey on the roasting rack to drain some of the juices to the bottom of the pan for you to collect more easily. Brush this juice onto the top of the turkey breasts to add moisture back to the meat. 

If you want more turkey tips or questions answered, check out our Turkey FAQs post. 

Step-by-Step Instructions for How to Cook a Frozen Turkey 

Step 1 – Remove packaging and place frozen turkey breast side up on a roasting pan  

Step 2 – Place pan on the middle rack of a preheated oven at 325 degrees F  

Step 3 – Cook for 20-30 minutes 

Step 4 – Remove the turkey from the oven and remove the giblets and any other plastic pieces 

Step 5 – Apply a prepared basting layer to the outside of the turkey  

Step 6 – Cook turkey for the remaining time  

Step 7 – Remove the turkey from the oven every hour (or so) to check the temperature and baste 

Step 8 – Once the turkey is done cooking (165 degrees F throughout, as measured with a food thermometer), remove it from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes 

Step 9 – Carve and serve  

There are many different ways to cook a turkey. But cooking from frozen gives you the ultimate flexibility. If you’re looking for an easy way to prepare a delicious feast on the day of a big gathering, this method is for you.  

Leave enough time to defrost your turkey before cooking? Check out our 3 methods for thawing a frozen turkey.

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olivia groves
Olivia Groves
Olivia is a Charlotte-based writer and content strategist. Olivia has over 6 years of experience freelance writing for many different companies and publications focused on retail and consumer goods & services. When she's not writing, she can be found in her garden, growing her own food and flowers.