When we lived in Albania putting together a Thanksgiving meal was always a production. Ironically enough, the hardest part of the the holiday was actually buying the food. Turkeys and to be procured from the commissary in neighboring Kosovo, the highly coveted sweet potatoes were bought in Italy months in advance and stashed in the coolest place in the house and pecans were imported from the United States. Once I had all of my ingredients I had two full kitchens and several refrigerators and freezers in which I could prepare and store the meal. Our dinners were epic in scale as well; one year our guests totaled 26 people around three tables. I prepared all of the food myself and slow roasted my birds in shifts. It worked because I had the space.
Fast forward to Belgium where space–both in the refrigerator and in the oven–are at a premium. As in I have European scaled appliances that don’t allow for any extras. Dishes are selected based on what does or doesn’t need to be cooked in an oven or can be served at room temperature. And defrosting the turkey? Its a nightmare. But last year I took a new approach to cooking my bird and it is one that I’m now adopting as the only way to cook my turkey.
In Albania my friend Anne always insisted on cooking her turkey from the frozen state. Yes that is right. She would plunk her fully frozen turkey in the oven and let it cook. I laughed when I first heard about this method since it flew in the face of everything I had ever heard of. But she sent me articles to attest to its legitimacy and assured me that this was an easier and safer method that allowed you to skip the lengthy defrosting process and resulted in a juicy and flavorful bird. For three years I resisted this method, not only because I was skeptical but because I had plenty of refrigerator space to safely defrost the bird and ovens to cook it in. But times change……..
So with a bit of trepidation and an assurance that I could contact Anne during the cooking process if needed, I attempted to roast my first frozen turkey. Because the bird is completely frozen it does take more time to cook than a defrosted one. There was also the somewhat humorous removing of the partially defrosted bag containing the neck and organ meats from the hot bird and the subsequent stuffing of the carcass. (Honestly, none of which is easy when using oven mitts). But the results? So worth it. The bird was juicy, flavorful and perfectly cooked. And getting to skip the arduous defrosting process? Now that was priceless. So tomorrow I’ll be taking the same approach which will allow me to focus on the other dishes that will complete the meal. It will be stress free……..but that can also be chalked up to hosting a mere 11 guests this year.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
ROAST TURKEY (from the frozen state)
1 12-13 pound frozen turkey
- About 5 to 5 1/2 hours before you plan on serving, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. (This allows your turkey to rest for about 1/2 an hour before carving. Adjust your timing for a smaller or larger bird).
- Remove the turkey from any wrapping and place it on a rack in a large yet shallow rimmed roasting pan.
- Place the turkey in the oven and allow it to cook.
- After about 2 to 2 1/2 hours the legs will be at approximately 100 degrees but the breasts will only be about 25 degrees. Insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast to monitor the temperature of the bird.
- Ater about 3 1/2 hours you should be able very carefully remove the bag containing the neck and internal organs. Use oven mitts and tongs to do this. At this point you may also fill the cavity with your favorite dressing.
- Continue to monitor the temperature of the breast which must reach an internal temperature of 175 to 185 degrees to be considered done.
- Remove the turkey from the oven, tent with aluminum foil and several dish towels and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.