Now, we know that many people have strong opinions on the best way to cook a turkey. You may fry it, grill it, roast it overnight, or even cook it in a slow cooker. You may brine religiously every year, or maybe have a secret family spice rub that only gets used at Thanksgiving.
But just to keep things really simple and straightforward with this tutorial, today we are taking a completely no-frills approach — though there are lots of places along the way where you can add some spice, extra flavor, or personal touches.
Consider this a recipe template and feel free to play with it as much or as little as you like; our goal is simply to give you a foolproof way to get that turkey roasted and onto plates with as little stress as possible.
This method will work with any turkey: big or small, brined or not, free-range or otherwise. Cooking times will vary, but the basic technique will be the same.
I have no tricks up my sleeve here; this method is as straightforward as they come. All we’re doing is putting the frozen turkey on a roasting rack and throwing it in the oven at 325°F. From rock-solid frozen, your turkey will take about 50 percent longer to cook than normal. For instance, a 14-pound frozen turkey will take about 5 3/4 hours to cook — refer to the chart below for more estimated cooking times. You can also cook a partially thawed turkey; the estimated cooking times will be slightly less than for a frozen turkey.
The turkey cooks as it thaws. The wings and drumsticks will cook the fastest since they’re relatively small and are on the outside of the turkey, while the big, thick muscle on the breast will take the longest. It also cooks from the outside in, so when you check the temperature during cooking, the meat close to the surface might be done cooking, while the meat closer to the bone will still be cool. Be sure to check the turkey’s temperature at multiple places and at multiple depths; when everything is above 165°F, you’re ready to eat.
You won’t be able to do any fancy rubs, brines, or other days-in-advance prep to your turkey — you have to keep things pretty basic with a frozen turkey. Once the outside of the turkey is thawed, partway through cooking, you can brush it with butter (or another sauce!) and rub it with salt, pepper, and any other spices you like.