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Desperation Turkey (From Frozen)

Desperation Turkey (From Frozen) 12.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post/Compo Image

Nov 17, 2017

Roast turkey doesn't get any simpler than this, so take heart, last-minute cooks: You can put a solidly frozen bird in the oven, and in less than twice the time it would take to cook a fresh one, a reasonably good Thanksgiving main course can be yours -- with lots of crisp skin and plenty of pan juices that will help season the meat after it has been sliced.

There are particulars you need to follow: Start with a good-quality turkey. Roast on a rack placed in a rimmed baking sheet (not in a roasting pan with tall sides). Find out where the producer has packed the giblet packet in the bird (cavity? neck?), whether it is made of plastic or paper and decide whether you could do without its contents.

A butter-and-wine soaked cheesecloth draped over the breast will help protect it and brown it during the last hour or two in the oven; for this optional step, see the VARIATION, below.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 12 servings

  • One 18- or 19-pound frozen turkey (see headnote and NOTE)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
  • 1 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


Position oven racks as needed to allow for enough room in the oven for the turkey; preheat to 325 degrees. Seat a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.

Place the turkey, breast side up, on the rack. Roast for 3 1/2 hours, then carefully transfer the pan to the stove top (off the heat). Use tongs or paper towel-covered hands to extract the giblets and the neck, if you can, from the turkey. See NOTE, below.

Return the turkey to the oven. Roast for 3 to 3 1/2 more hours, during which time you can use a turkey baster to remove some of the pan juices, as needed, and cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil if it seems like it is browning too much. At an hour or two before the bird is done, you can drape the optional soaked cheesecloth over the bird.

The turkey will be ready when the drumsticks feel loose in their sockets, and the temperature of the dark meat (taken away from the bone) registers 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Let it rest for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1 1/2 hours, before carving. In the meantime, strain the pan juices through a fine-mesh strainer, into a tall liquid measuring cup, discarding any solids. Let sit for 10 minutes or until the fat separates into a layer at the top. Pour off as much as you would like, then season what's left with a good pinch each of salt and pepper.

Pour the seasoned pan juices over the carved slices of meat. Serve warm.

VARIATION: Combine the melted butter and white wine in a mixing bowl, then add the cheesecloth and let it soak up all the liquid. About halfway through its cooking, and working as quickly as possible, carefully transfer the turkey (in its pan) to the stove top (off the heat). Drape the soaked cheesecloth evenly over the whole breast, then return the bird to the oven. Carefully remove the cheesecloth once the turkey is out of the oven, taking care not to tear the skin.

NOTE: Giblets enclosed in paper may be cooked further, separately. Those packed in food-safe plastic may be too mushy to use, depending on how you wish to use them.

Recipe Source

From Washington Post deputy Food editor Bonnie S. Benwick.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

Email questions to the Food Section.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 590

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 14g 22%

Saturated Fat: 4g 20%

Cholesterol: 375mg 125%

Sodium: 370mg 15%

Total Carbohydrates: 0g 0%

Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%

Sugar: 0g

Protein: 108g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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