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FRONT BURNER: What to do if you forgot to defrost your turkey

by Kelly Brant | November 21, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.
Spatchcocked Turkey Breast

It's the day before Thanksgiving. Did you remember to start defrosting your turkey?

If not, don't panic. Instead of a slow thaw in the refrigerator, the turkey will need to take a long, cold bath with frequent water changes.

But even if you don't have time to thaw the bird, all is not lost.

According to several trusted sources — I have not tried this method myself — you can safely cook a whole frozen turkey. But plan on it taking longer. Much longer. As much as 50 percent longer. The method and recipe — no brine, no rubs — is as straightforward as it gets.

Unwrap the frozen turkey, place it on a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet, add about 1 cup of water to the pan and roast in a 325-degree oven. After about 2 hours the turkey should be thawed enough to remove the giblets. Using long tongs, carefully remove the giblets from inside the cavity. Once the outside of the turkey is thawed, you can season it as you like. Roast until the turkey measures at least 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer in several places. Using a thermometer is a must. (Sources: thekitchn and The Washington Post)

On average, an 8- to 11-pound turkey will take 4 to 4½ hours. A 12- to 14-pound turkey will take 4½ to 5¾ hours. A 15- to 18-pound turkey will take 6 to 6¼ hours. A 20-pound turkey will take about 7 hours.

Let the cooked turkey rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour before carving.

To quickly and safely thaw a turkey, submerge it in cold water and soak, changing the water every half-hour, allowing 30 minutes per pound. A 12-pound turkey will take about 6 hours to thaw. If your turkey is too large to submerge or tends to float, rotate it often to keep the surface cold while it thaws. Once thawed, refrigerate until ready to cook.

There are many ways to cook a turkey, but my favorites are traditional oven roast and spatchcocked.

Spatchcocking involves removing the backbone so the bird can be pressed flat. The process can be messy, as it involves cutting through bone and connective tissue and dislocating joints. You will definitely need a sharp knife and sharp poultry shears. The method is ideal for a whole bird because it allows for more even cooking, meaning the legs and thighs are cooked through before the breast turns dry and tough. The method also allows for higher heat and much faster cooking. And it produces a bird with delectably crispy skin. A spatchcocked turkey can be on the table in half the time it takes to roast a turkey the traditional way.

To roast a whole unstuffed turkey or unstuffed turkey breast: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Remove turkey from packaging. Pat dry with paper towels. (Do not rinse turkey under running water as this could spread harmful bacteria around your kitchen.) Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Tuck the wings under. Brush or spray skin with vegetable oil or melted butter. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 325 degrees for 20 minutes per pound or until the thickest part of the breast reaches 165 degrees and the thickest part of the thigh reaches 180 degrees.

A stuffed turkey will take longer — anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes longer — to cook.

Spatchcock Roast Turkey

1 turkey or turkey breast

Olive oil or melted butter

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Lay turkey breast-side-down on a work surface. Using poultry shears, remove backbone by cutting along both sides beginning at the tail end. It will take some force to cut through some of the bone; be sure to have the bird on a steady work surface. (I use my dining table as it is a better height for me to get the proper leverage to break the breastbone.)

Open up the turkey and use the tip of a knife to score alongside the keel bone (the dark oblong bone in the middle of the breast). This makes it easier to flatten the bird.

Cut away any large pieces of fat and excess skin. Remove only the skin that is not covering flesh.

Turn breast-side-up.

Using the heels of your hands, press firmly down on the breast. You should feel and hear a crack as the breastbone breaks.

If working with a whole bird, pull the thighs outward so the turkey lies flat, with the wings facing inward. Tuck the wing tips under to secure.

Place the turkey on a sturdy rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle turkey with olive oil or melted butter. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Roast, rotating sheet halfway through, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the bird reaches 165 degrees, 1 to 2 hours depending on size of turkey. Let stand 30 minutes before carving.

Food on 11/21/2018

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