Can You Cook a Partially Frozen Turkey? (Yes, Here’s How!)

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Wondering if you can cook a partially frozen turkey? Look no further because we have the answers to your questions here.

In this TheGrillingDad.com article you will find:

  • Whether you can cook a partially frozen turkey or not
  • Methods of cooking a partially frozen turkey
  • And much more!
a turkey in a metal pan in an oven

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Can You Cook a Partially Frozen Turkey?

For many people, thawing a frozen turkey can be a daunting task, especially if they don’t have much experience with it. The time it takes and methods to thaw a turkey can be confusing and underestimated easily.

The good news is that you can cook a partially frozen turkey, as long as you follow certain guidelines to keep you and your family safe. This means making sure that the turkey does not sit in the danger zone between 40℉-140℉ for more than 2 hours.

Keep in mind that any food that is left out and rises to the above-mentioned temperatures for more than two hours is in danger of going bad. This is because harmful bacteria begin to grow on food at that temperature.

Since you don’t want it to linger at these temperatures, you will need to ensure that it is cooked at a temperature that keeps it from staying in the danger zone. This means that you will need to most likely raise the temperature a bit higher than you normally would.

an uncooked turkey with hock lock on the legsbrining in a bucket in the kitchen sink.

How to Cook a Turkey That’s Thawed All The Way

When it comes to cooking a partially frozen turkey, there are several factors that you should consider. The most important of these factors should be making sure that whatever method you choose keeps your bird out of the danger zone.

If you are wondering what methods you can use to cook a partially frozen turkey, keep reading.

Oven Method

The most important thing you need to remember when you are using this method is that it will take at least 25% longer to cook a partially frozen turkey. You should factor this time in accurately to ensure that it cooks completely.

Here are the steps you should take to cook a partially frozen turkey in the oven:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to about 325℉

While many people think that it would be much better to cook the partially frozen turkey at a higher temperature to maintain the time frame, this is not the best thing to do. This is because rushing the process of cooking by turning up the temperature can cause your turkey to cook unevenly, which could spell disaster.

Step 2: Brine your turkey

A common misconception is that you cannot brine a partially frozen turkey properly. This, however, while true for a completely frozen turkey, is not the case with one that is partially thawed. You will just have to ensure that you add in some ice cubes to keep the temperature from staying at room temperature and reaching the danger zone.

Step 3: Place the turkey in a roasting pan

Once the turkey has been brined according to the method you choose, place the turkey directly into a roasting pan. You will need to ensure that there is plenty of room in the pan for the additional juices that may be excreted.

Step 4: Set your timer

Keep in mind that the turkey that is partially frozen has to be cooked for about 25% longer than you would normally. Since a turkey requires approximately 15 minutes per pound, you will need to adjust the cooking time to accommodate the extra time.

Step 5: Use your meat thermometer 

To ensure that the inside of your turkey has reached the appropriate temperature, you should use a probe thermometer throughout the process. This will ensure that the inside is being cooked thoroughly.

Smoker Method

Wondering if your plan to smoke your turkey is now ruined since it is still partially frozen? No need to worry as long as you follow instructions to ensure that your bird stays out of the danger zone and cooks thoroughly.

To smoke a partially frozen turkey, follow the directions below:

Step 1: Prepare your turkey

Even though your turkey is partially frozen, you can still season it the way you normally would. Many people choose to use a rub and this can still be effective on your bird that is mostly frozen.

Step 2: Preheat your smoker to about 250℉

Smoking your turkey at this temperature when it is partially frozen will ensure that it cooks thoroughly but does not dry out. This will allow the turkey to cook low and slow and keeps it out of dangerous temperatures.

Step 3: Place the turkey on the cooking grates

As your smoker is heated to the correct temperature, you can then place the turkey on the grates to begin the cooking process. Keep in mind that you should always have the meatier side of the bird facing upwards for best results.

Step 4: Smoke your turkey 

You are now ready to begin the smoking process with your partially frozen turkey and should have already calculated the cooking time. Close the lid of the smoker and set the time for 25% longer than you would normally cook it.

Step 5: Use a meat thermometer

Like the oven method, you should use a probe thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 160℉ for best results. This will ensure that it is cooked completely and will not expose anyone to harmful bacteria.

seasoned turkey with all plastic removed sitting in an electric smoker

How to Defrost a Partially Frozen Turkey Safely

Similar to the various ways you can cook a partially frozen turkey, many methods can be used to defrost your partially frozen turkey. Keep in mind that the most important part of defrosting a turkey is to keep it out of dangerous temperatures to avoid harmful bacteria from growing.

To learn about the safest methods to defrost your partially frozen turkey, keep reading.

Defrost in the Refrigerator

If you pull your turkey out and notice it is still partially frozen, if you have time, the safest thing to do is keep your turkey in the fridge for longer. Remember that a partially frozen turkey takes longer to cook, sometimes it can be worth it to leave the turkey in the fridge for those two extra hours to try and bring it to a safe defrosted temperature. 

Of course we understand that this isn’t always possible, so let’s look at a faster way to defrost a partially frozen turkey. 

Cold Water Bath

If you run into the problem where you forgot to take the turkey out of the freezer in time to let it thaw naturally, you can use a cold water bath. This will keep the turkey at a constant temperature that keeps it safe but also allows it to thaw.

Using the cold water bath requires that you have a container that will completely submerge the turkey to allow for thorough thawing. You will need to change the water frequently to ensure that it does not reach room temperature.

You can use either your sink or a cooler. If you use a cooler, you will need to change the water less, but the cooler will also need to be disinfected before you use it for anything else. If you use the sink, you’ll change the water more often and the sink will also need to be disinfected after the thawing process is complete. 

This method takes about 30 minutes per pound of the turkey for it to thaw enough to cook it in the time frame you want. Keep in mind that if your turkey is on the completely frozen side, it may still be partially frozen, so you will need to use proper precautions to keep it safe.

Things to Keep in Mind When Cooking a Partially Frozen Turkey

As with most things you cook in the kitchen, there are certain things you should do to keep you and your family safe. Since bacteria that grow on foods can cause certain illnesses, you need to ensure that you are using precautions with everything you cook.

Here are a few precautions that you should take when working with a partially frozen turkey:

  • You should never attempt to thaw the turkey at room temperature. This is because room temperatures expose the bird to harmful bacteria that cause certain food-borne illnesses that are extremely unpleasant.
  • Thawing the turkey in a microwave is never a good idea since the unit is not specifically designed for such work. This means that you may end up with a turkey that is unevenly thawed and even cooked in some areas.
  • Make sure you are using safe cooking techniques when you are handling a partially frozen turkey. If you are touching the bird with your bare hands, for example, you will need to ensure that you wash them thoroughly with hot soapy water before touching anything else.

Final Thoughts on Partially Frozen Turkey

The bottom line when it comes to cooking a partially frozen turkey is that while it can be done safely, you will need to ensure that you are adding extra cooking time and ensuring the turkey is at the right temp before you remove it from the oven/smoker.

Using these methods and safety precautions will help you to cook a delicious turkey, even if it’s partially frozen, while keeping you and your family safe from harmful bacteria.

Hope Davis

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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