Turkey still frozen? Here’s how to get it on the table fast
Maybe you wanted more time with your family or just needed the oven space for other dishes. More likely, you forgot to thaw the turkey or you overslept and now are two hours behind on your roasting.
Whatever your reason, there are all manner of tricks for speeding up the thawing and roasting of your turkey.
Cutting corners isn’t recommended by the National Turkey Federation: “Trying to cut time will result in unhappy family and friends,” says spokeswoman Sherrie Rosenblatt. “If you oversleep, have some appetizers for people and have dinner a little later. … If you fail to defrost, run out and buy a fresh.”
But for those of us willing to risk it, read on:
* The refrigerator is the best way to thaw a frozen turkey. An 8- to 12-pound bird will take about two days. To do it in 4 to 6 hours, cover the frozen turkey (don’t unwrap it) with cold water in a sink. Change the water every 30 minutes.
* Cook the turkey in a browning bag (available at most grocers). These trap heat close to the bird and can cut cooking time by 1 1/2 hours (depending on bird size), says Frank Terranova, a culinary instructor at Johnson & Wales University.
* If you don’t have a bag, the editors at Bon Appetit magazine suggest tenting the turkey with foil after the first 30 minutes of roasting to get the same effect.
* Don’t stuff the turkey, says Leah Holzel, associate food editor at Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. Unstuffed turkeys can cook as much as 40 minutes faster. Instead, cook the stuffing in a casserole dish.
* Don’t crowd the oven, says Sandy Gluck, food editor at Everyday Food magazine. Food cooks more slowly in a full oven. Instead, choose sides that can be prepared in advance, then reheated in the oven while the turkey rests.
* Jump-start the cooking by roasting the turkey at 450 F for the first 30 minutes, then reducing it to the temperature called for by the recipe for the remaining time (usually 325 F), the editors at Bon Appetit magazine say.
* If you don’t care about presentation, cut the turkey in half (or have your butcher do it) before roasting, Terranova says.
* With the same presentation caveat, Holzel says to consider separating the legs and thighs from the breast before roasting. This gets the heat to all parts of the turkey faster.
* Don’t wait until the turkey is done to make the gravy. Instead, Gluck says, use the giblets, canned broth and the same seasonings used on the bird to prep the gravy early, then enhance it with some of the pan drippings when the turkey is done.
* For small gatherings, don’t buy a whole bird. Most grocers sell fresh and frozen turkey breasts.
* Ditch the giant bird and roast two smaller birds, or one smaller turkey and one breast, says Holzel.
* Avoid basting the bird, the editors at Bon Appetit magazine say. The frequent opening of the oven lowers the temperature, requiring longer roasting.
* Brine the turkey. Eve Felder, associate dean of culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America, says brining forces liquid into the meat, which not only produces moist meat, but it also speeds the transfer of heat to the meat.
A brined turkey will roast 6 to 8 minutes faster per pound than a bird that was not brined, she says.
Total preparation time, start to finish: 12 hours. Makes brine for one 10-pound turkey.
2 gallons water, divided
1/2 pound sugar
1/2 pound salt
Herbs and spices, to taste (such as thyme, bay leaves, black peppercorns, cloves)
1/2 gallon ice
In a large pot, bring 1 gallon water to a boil. Add the sugar, salt and spice, then stir until the salt and sugar dissolve.
Add 1 gallon of cold water and the ice. Transfer the brine to a container large enough to contain it and the turkey. Many grocers sell special brining bags for this purpose.
Add the turkey to the brine, breast side submerged, close the container and refrigerate overnight.
Once brined, remove the turkey from the liquid and drain. Pat the bird dry with paper towels and proceed with roasting as directed by your recipe. Check the internal temperature early, as brined turkeys cook faster than those not brined.
— AP food writer J.M. Hirsch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org