Freaking Out Because Your Turkey’s Still Frozen? Try 1 of These 2 Tips

How long does a frozen turkey take to defrost?

If you buy a frozen turkey, you have to make sure it’s properly defrosted before cooking – all the way through.

If it’s still frozen in places it might not cook evenly, which means that harmful bacteria could survive the cooking process – which could ruin Christmas for everyone.

But don’t wake up on Christmas morning and think you can take your bird out of the freezer and whack it in the over. Defrosting takes time. Depending on the size of your turkey, it can take days.

So, it’s important to plan ahead.

Work out the defrosting time you need in advance, so you know how much time to allow.

First, you should check the packaging for any guidance – hopefully it will tell you how long it will need to defrost.

If there are no defrosting instructions, the NHS suggests that you should thaw your turkey in a fridge at 4C (39F) for 10-12 hours per kilogram. Take a look at your fridge settings, because not all fridges will be set to this temperature.

When your turkey is fully defrosted, keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it.


Does cooking turkey kill bacteria?

Cooking a frozen turkey will take around 50 percent longer than cooking one that’s already been thawed. This will ensure that the turkey stays above any liquid that may drain out, which would cause it to steam rather than roast. And it will cook more evenly on a shallow pan than one with high sides.

Can you refreeze a thawed turkey?

Cooked or uncooked turkey can safely be refrozen, as long as you refreeze it within three days of thawing. You should only refreeze turkey if it’s been handled properly at every step along the way. Turkey that has been thawed on the counter or left out for long periods shouldn’t be refrozen.

👨‍🍳 Does Smoking Your Own Turkey Take Longer?

If you are going to take the time to reheat a smoked turkey, you could just smoke the turkey yourself. Smoking your own turkey may not take as long as it seems. If you buy a frozen smoked turkey, the time you spend thawing it and then reheating it, won’t be much different then if you smoked a fresh turkey yourself.

Just something to ponder 🙂


Pulling your turkey from the oven or smoker or frier is actually NOT the last step before carving and serving. Resting your turkey is. We recommend a 30-minute rest before carving.

Why rest? Two important reasons…


The higher temperatures that exist on the outside of the turkey will continue moving toward the lower temperature center area of the meat even after you take your turkey out of the heat.

This is called carryover cooking. While small cuts of meat like steaks or chops experience minimal carryover, large cuts, like turkeys or roasts, can experience as much as 5-10°F (3-6°C) increase in internal temperature while the exterior cools. We call the way a cooked turkey comes to one temperature while it rests “equilibration.”


Another reason to rest your turkey is so it has a chance to reabsorb its juices.

While exposed to the intense heat of an oven, smoker or fryer, turkey meat’s protein fibers shorten, shrink and contract, expelling out the water they’ve retained. During the rest, these protein fibers have a chance to relax and reabsorb some of the juices that are lost. A turkey carved and served without resting will spill more of its juices onto the cutting board and not be as moist.


Once you have verified that your turkey has reached its pull temperature of 157°F (69°C), remove the turkey from the oven or smoker.


If you have a ChefAlarm or Smoke alarm thermometer from ThermoWorks, leave the probe in place, and the alarm thermometer will record the maximum temperature reached by the internal meat of the turkey during the rest.


Set a timer for 30 minutes, and allow your turkey to rest at room temperature (the ChefAlarm has one built-in).


Check the ChefAlarm or Smoke’s Max temperature reading to see what your turkey’s final resting temperature was. Even if your turkey didn’t reach 165°F (74°C), it only needs to be held for 25.6 seconds at 160°F (71°C) to reach the same level of food safety (a 7-log reduction in pathogens as defined by the USDA).


If you want your turkey skin to stay crispy, keep the turkey uncovered during the rest. If you need to hold the turkey for longer than half an hour before serving, keep it warm in an oven set to 150°F (66°C). Leave your alarm thermometer probe in place and track the internal temperature while you wait.

Reader Interactions


  1. terri

    can I cooked / heat a fully cooked smoked turkey breast in a pressure cooker?

  2. Jeni

    Is it ok to eat smoked turkey cold??

  3. Mike

    My turkey is smoked but it is frozen and today is Thanksgiving. How can I warm the Frozen smoked turkey?

  4. Olivia Spencer

    I bought two smoked, fully cooked turkeys a week after Thanksgiving–to be served at Christmas. The birds are labled, “Use by Jan 1, 2019.” They have been refrigerated for three weeks. I’m a little nervous though about how long they have been refrigerated (not frozen) Am I ok to serve them to my guests Dec. 25?

  5. Eric Samuelson

    If it was me I would have no problem cooking them since it’s still before the use by date, which in general are conservative. Was it ever frozen?

  6. Eric Samuelson

    Follow the same method, it’s just going to take longer. If you can at least try to defrost it somewhat before your meal that would be good. Put it in a 5 gallon bucket with ice to keep the temperature of the water out of the danger zone (below 40 degrees).

  7. Eric Samuelson

    As long as it says that it has been fully cooked.

  8. Jackie

    We were out of the country on Thanksgiving, so we’re having a mini one today, Dec 1st. I got a smoked turkey from Sam’s club and want to eat about 5. So if I take it out now, let it sit for an hour, wrap in foil and 275 for about 4 hours, I should be good? I need the oven for roasted brussel sprouts, so I need time to do that too.

  9. Eric Samuelson

    I think your timeline sounds reasonable for sure. If you get your Brussels all prepped and ready to go you can throw them in after the turkey is heated through.

  10. Basia turner

    My turkey was left out for a little over 2 hours, do you think cooking it to 140 or 165 will take it out of the danger zone and get rid of Bacteria that may have grown?

  11. Eric Samuelson

    Typically you are not suppose to leave anything out for over 4 hours, so 2 hours would be underneath that threshold. If it’s smoked, it’s salted as well providing more protection against bacteria. Personally I would be ok with cooking it still, use your best judgment.

  12. WKA

    Turned out great! I followed your suggestions, wrapped it in foil and slow roasted at 250 for 3 hours. Nice and moist, hardly any leftovers. Made soup from the carcass today, great flavor.

  13. W

    This worked so well at Thanksgiving, I made it again for New Years. Baked sweet potatoes along side as well.

  14. Eric Samuelson

    Glad to hear it. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Eric Samuelson

    I glad it turned out well for you. Thanks for taking the time to share.

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Carving your turkey properly is the perfect finishing touch. Not only does it make it easier for people to eat, but it is the perfect way to publicly demonstrate your new-found turkey prowess! But carving a turkey—with all its nooks and crannies, the legs, wings, and breasts on the ribcage—is not like carving a tenderloin. It takes a strategic plan.

To carve your turkey…


Remove the turkey leg by slicing down between the thigh and breast. Pull the thigh away from the breast until the thigh pulls out of joint. Finish severing the joint with the point of your knife until the entire leg is free.


Separate the turkey drumstick from the thigh by following the line between the leg and the thigh with the point of your knife. Again, pull the drumstick away from the thigh to reveal the joint. Finish severing the joint with the point of your knife.

Do the same to the other thigh and drumstick.


Free the breast by cutting down right next to the keel bone. Angle your knife outward and follow the bone structure down of the bird all the way along the ribcage until the breast meat is free. Starting at one tip, slice the breast meat into cross-sections, each with their own strip of skin.

Repeat on the other breast.


Remove the wing by pulling the wing away from the carcass to identify the joint. Sever the joing with the point of your knife. Repeat for the other wing.