Food & Drink

3 ways to save the turkey

Some skin removal (out of sight of guests) is one step to salvaging a burnt turkey.
Some skin removal (out of sight of guests) is one step to salvaging a burnt turkey.

It happens to the most-seasoned and veteran of us: Something goes wrong with the turkey on Thursday just before the guests arrive.

You’ve done everything according to directions, experience and your mom’s know-how. And still the bird isn’t right.

Here are three problems to look out for with advice from You’ve got 48 hours to think about them. And prevent them. But if they do happen, don’t panic. Good luck.

Turkey still frozen on Thanksgiving morning

What to do: You can speed up the thawing process by placing the wrapped, frozen turkey in your kitchen sink and covering it with cold running water. Use your bathtub if your sink isn’t large enough. Drain and refill the water every half-hour. The turkey will thaw at the rate of about a half-hour for each pound.

What went wrong: You may have underestimated how long it would take to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator — about 5 hours for each pound. Or you may have waited until the last minute to do your shopping. (That should probably stay between you and the bird.)

Turkey begins to burn while it’s roasting

What went wrong: It could be that your oven needs to be calibrated and that you’ve been roasting it at a much higher temperature than you thought. (Note to self: purchase an oven thermometer.) Or you may be relying on one of those “pop-ups” to tell you when the turkey is done, which aren’t as reliable as a meat thermometer inserted into the turkey.

What to do: Flip the bird over immediately and continue to cook. When you carve the turkey, begin by removing any blackened skin and about half an inch of the meat below any burnt area. You can then layer slices of the meat on individual dinner plates (outside the view of your guests), ladle gravy spiced with a little cayenne pepper on top and call it your special “Cajun Smoked Turkey.”

Turkey meat is dry

What went wrong: The turkey breast meat often dries out before the drumsticks are cooked. Trussing may also have been the culprit: trussing is really only required to help keep stuffing in the bird. Trussing an unstuffed bird will lead to less air circulation in the cavity, the dark meat will take longer to cook and the breast meat has a better chance of drying out.

What to do: Cover your turkey slices with extra gravy. Leftover dry meat is perfect for BBQ, stews or turkey salads.

Cook a frozen turkey

Yes, you can cook a frozen turkey. Here’s how to go from frozen to golden without skipping a beat.

  • Put the frozen turkey on a roasting rack in a 325-degree preheated oven.
  • About the giblets. Do not try to remove them at first, the bird is too frozen. Do this partway through the roasting, but not so far into it that the plastic pack melts.
  • Think time and a half. From rock-solid frozen to golden brown, 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.
  • 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.
  • Thermometer is a must. A frozen turkey 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 degrees, you’re ready to eat.
  • No stuffing, rubs or brines. You have to keep things pretty basic. 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.
  • The USDA says it’s safe to oven-roast a frozen turkey, but do not deep-fry or grill a frozen turkey.
  • For complete instructions and a time table, go to and query “cook a frozen turkey.”