Can you brine a frozen turkey?

Ingredients

  • 1 14 to 16 lb (6.4 to 7.3 kg) frozen young turkey
  • 1 cup (288 g) kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) light brown sugar
  • 1 gallon (3.8 l) vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon (9 g) black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (1.5 g) allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (6 g) chopped candied ginger
  • 1 gallon (3.8 l) ice water

Makes a 14 to 16 lb (6.4 to 7.3 kg) turkey

Video

Can You Freeze Leftover Turkey?

Yes, you can freeze Leftover Turkey easily but just placing it in the freezer. This does not affect the taste of Leftover Turkey. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Can You Freeze Leftover Turkey with bone?

Yes, you can freeze a bone in Leftover Turkey, just follow these directions. It’s best to remove the turkey from the bone for reheating purposes though.

Can I Freeze a Leftover Turkey? 

Yep! Sure can! This recipe will show you how. It’s the same for all kinds of Leftover Turkey! 

What is the Best Way To Freeze A Leftover Turkey? 

The very best way to freeze a Leftover Turkey is to see the recipe card below and use the instructions for wrapping in plastic wrap followed by freezer paper. Freezer paper can be found at the grocery store where you will find plastic wrap, aluminum foil and parchment paper. 

Can I Eat Leftover Turkey That Has Been Frozen For A Year or More? 

That is really a judgement call. Essentially, if the meat has been frozen at 32F, it should be fine. However, freezer burn can set in and that will ruin the meat. Check the meat well for freezer burn before preparing it. 

How To Know If Frozen Leftover Turkey is  Bad

If you notice….

  • The meat appears encased in ice crystals or frost
  • Meat is very light colored and dry
  • The meat  has been in the freezer longer than 6 months.
  • There was a lot of air in the package.

Can I Freeze It? 

Yes, you can freeze it. Place the slices in a freezer safe package (plastic bags) and place in the ice box. This will keep for 3-6 months. 

How to Thaw Leftover Turkey Method 1: 

  • Remove the package from the freezer wrapping.
  • Place the Leftover Turkey in the refrigerator.
  • After 2-3 days the Leftover Turkey should be thawed. 

Method 2: 

  • Remove the package from the freezer
  • Place it in a large plastic zip top bag.
  • Place in a  large bowl of cool water or in a very clean sink. 
  • Check every 30 minutes replace the water at least hourly. 
  • When thawed, place in the refrigerator. 

How Long Does It Take Leftover Turkey To Freeze? 

That depends on how much you are trying to freeze. A large Leftover Turkey may take 24 hours to freeze. A small Leftover Turkey may only take a few hours 

How Long Can You Freeze Leftover Turkey? 

Leftover Turkey that is wrapped in a sturdy freezer package can last 3-6 months easily. You’ll want to follow the instructions for how to freeze it that are in the card below.

Does Freezing It Change The Taste? 

Freezing It does not change the taste or texture at all. Leftover Turkey that has been frozen tastes exactly as you would expect and this is a great way to save it for later. 

The Perfect Roasted Turkey

Can I Brine Frozen Turkey?

It is not recommended to brine frozen turkey as they have usually been injected with a sodium solution that prevents them from fully absorbing the brine.

So while it is possible and perfectly safe to brine your turkey as you thaw it, the end result won’t be quite as flavorful as if you were to use fresh or thawed out meat.

Ingredients for an always moist and tender turkey

You won’t want to skip the brine. I have smoked many turkeys, with and without a brine, and the brined turkeys are always way better. A great brine will have wonderful aromatics and flavors added to it, but, of course, you could simply brine in water and salt. For this Traeger brined turkey, I added some spices along with a healthy amount of bourbon to give it that extra kick!

Bourbon has a smokiness to it that really helps to complement the turkey after it spends hours in the smoke on the Traeger.

For the brown sugar bourbon turkey brine

  • Water
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Whole cloves
  • Bay leaves 
  • Kosher salt (or regular table salt)
  • Brown sugar
  • Bourbon 
  • Orange
  • Lemon

How Long To Roast Turkey

How long to roast turkey depends on its size and the oven temperature. Some people prefer low and slow at 325 degrees, others blast the turkey at 425 or 450 degrees and then reduce the temperature afterward.

My method for garlic herb roasted turkey works best at 350 degrees, as higher temperatures will burn the butter and herbs. You’ll need to start with the turkey uncovered to roast the top, and then cover it to prevent burning.

Turkey roasting time chart:

Here is a chart for how long to roast turkey covered at 350 degrees F. Start by roasting the turkey to brown the skin, then cover it and continue roasting for the remaining time.

Turkey WeightRoast Uncovered First For This LongThen Cover and Roast ForTotal Time
8 to 11 lb45 minutes1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours
12 to 14 lb45 minutes1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes2 1/2 to 3 hours
15 to 17 lb45 minutes2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours3 1/4 to 3 3/4 hours
18 to 21 lb45 minutes3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
22 to 25 lb45 minutes3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
26 to 30 lb45 minutes4 hours to 4 hours 45 minutes4 3/4 to 5 1/2 hours

FYI: These times are for an unstuffed turkey. If your turkey is stuffed, add about 45 to 75 minutes to the covered roasting time (1 hour on average).

Some methods for roasted turkey say to roast it covered first and then uncover at the end, but I recommend the other way around. Then you can ensure that the skin is browned and then cook for the right amount of time after to cook the meat all the way through without risking too much browning.

This works best if the foil is tented when covering but not tightly against the turkey. If yours ends up touching it and the skin isn’t as crisp as you like at the end, you can always broil it for a couple of minutes to crisp it up, but I’ve never needed to do so.

This chart is a good starting point, but please use a meat thermometer to know for sure when your oven roasted turkey is done.

How To Know Roasted Turkey Is Done

The best way to know that a roasted turkey is done is to use a meat thermometer. I prefer a meat temperature probe so that I don’t have to keep checking on it.

The USDA recommends cooking the turkey until it’s 165 to 170 degrees F in the coolest part of the bird, which is usually the thickest part of the thigh. Be careful not to touch the bone when measuring the temperature, because this can skew the reading.

However, you will need to rest your garlic butter roasted turkey after you take it out of the oven for about 20 minutes, to ensure that the juices stay in when you cut into it.

And, the temperature actually continues to rise about 15 degrees while the turkey rests!

Therefore, some people (me included!) prefer to remove the turkey from the oven when it’s at 150 to 155 degrees F, cover it with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes to reach the safe 165 to 170 degrees F mark. Just make sure it does reach safe temperature before eating.

How to thaw a turkey

Thawing a turkey is very simple. You have a few options for thawing it. You can place the turkey in the original packaging in the fridge. Allow 1 day for every 4 pounds that your turkey weighs.

My favorite way to thaw the turkey is to actually thaw and brine it at the same time. You can actually save tons of time by thawing your turkey in the brine because it helps the turkey thaw faster. After mixing your brining solution, ensure it is cool and put your frozen turkey in for a swim. Cover the turkey in the brine and refrigerate overnight. It will take approximately 30 minutes per pound to thaw it in the fridge. You will want to brine for some additional time, up to 24 hours more, once the turkey is fully thawed since the brine cannot absorb well into frozen meat.

FAQs

Is it safe to eat a turkey frozen for 2 years?

According to Foodsafety.gov, when continuously frozen at 0 °F or below can be kept indefinitely. However, for the best quality, the cooked turkey should be used within 2 to 6 months after freezing. A fresh whole turkey is best to use in one year after freezing.

Can I eat defrosted cooked turkey cold?

It is required to reheat cooked turkey after thawing to kill harmful bacteria and prevent food poisoning. Make sure that the food reaches 165 °F or served piping hot.

Is it okay to leave a cooked turkey out of the fridge overnight? Leaving cooked turkey out of the fridge overnight is not advisable as it can cause foodborne illnesses. Harmful bacteria will likely contaminate the food and thus, unsafe to eat.

Summary

Cooked turkey freezes well. So, if you have any leftovers which you can’t finish within 3 to 4 days, you can always freeze them to enjoy in the next 2 to 6 months.

Slice cooked turkey into smaller pieces before freezing. Freezing a whole cooked turkey is never a good idea. It takes up so much space to freeze. Plus, defrosting takes days.

To thaw frozen cooked turkey safely, you can do it in the fridge, in a cold water bath, or in a microwave. Reheat it until it reaches 165 °F before serving.

Up next: Best way to reheat turkey

*Image by depositphotos.com/tastyfood

*Image by depositphotos.com/tastyfood

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How to Smoke a Turkey on a Pellet Grill

Now that we’ve walked you through turkey selection and brining, it’s time to get smoking. Ideally, you’re going to want to smoke your turkey on a wood pellet grill. That’s because a pellet grill offers both fool-proof temperature control and also infuses your meats with those mouth-watering hardwood flavors that people are going to drool over.

How long to brine a turkey

We recommend brining your turkey for at least 5 hours, but it’s best when it has 24 hours to sit in the wet brine.  

Be mindful that you don’t want to brine your turkey for too long because it can impact the consistency of the meat.

How to Prepare Brine For Christmas Turkey

There are many different ways to make a brine. During the holiday season, especially when it comes to preparing Christmas turkey, one can prepare a basic solution of water and salt to brine the turkey for Christmas dinner.

The brine is absorbed by the turkey, which actually changes its molecular structure. The salt in the mixture dissolves some muscle proteins, which means that the turkey releases less water as it cooks, resulting in much juicier meat and also adding to its savory flavor.

This recipe calls for some extra flavorings and spices to really amp it up, and there are all kinds of combinations that work beautifully with turkey.

The sugar helps to balance out the saltiness, while the herbs and peppers give it a subtle aroma. Feel free to experiment with your favorite flavors to see what works for you.

Reader Success Stories

  • Pam Berg

Nov 21, 2018

    Pam Berg Nov 21, 2018

    “It provided a recipe and some great ideas regarding how to brine a turkey.”

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