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New cook here! So I started to cook a 3 lb. frozen turkey breast. It cooked for 75 minutes and I inserted a meat thermometer, while keeping it in the oven. It registered 165. I took it out and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, my husband cut into it and the middle was still frozen. He then put it back in the oven for another hour or so. I just pulled it out and placed a meat thermometer in it while it was out of the oven. It registered 180. I started worrying about the bake, refrigeration, frozen re-bake thing. Should we even consider eating this poor turkey breast?

  • Always defrost raw meat before cooking... – Catija Sep 14 '16 at 18:17
  • Perhaps @Catija's comment should be amended. I agree that you should always defrost raw meat when cooking traditionally (say, in an oven), however, with sous vide becoming more common place, one should know that it is an acceptable and safe practice to cook from frozen when using a low-temperature water bath (sous vide). – moscafj Sep 14 '16 at 21:27
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I don't know if it'll be good, but assuming this time it did actually cook all the way through, it should be safe to eat. Food is safe for up to 2-4 hours in the danger zone, and it sounds like your initial cooking, refrigeration, and second cooking are still within that.

It does sound like something went pretty wrong with your thermometer usage, though. My guess would be that you just didn't manage to find that frozen spot, and need to be sure to try a couple spots and make sure you're getting the temperature-sensitive part of the thermometer all the way to the center of the meat.

It could also be that your thermometer isn't great, and the temperature-sensitive part is too big, so it was in contact with both the frozen part and plenty of warmer turkey outside of that, and sort of averaged out to 165. Or it could be wildly inaccurate! So you might want to test it on a few more things where you have a good idea what the reading should be, and get a sense of whether you can trust it.

And of course, for next time, defrost before cooking. It's hard to get good results cooking frozen food directly, unless it's small enough. (And as you've discovered, a turkey breast is not small enough!)

  • How is your fridge? Is it possible this turkey breast re-froze during the night after you cooked and put it in the fridge, even though you didn't put it in the freezer? Some refrigerators which aren't working exactly perfect can have a very uneven temperature inside, and food can freeze even in some parts of the non-freezer area. Did your husband say "raw inside" or just "frozen"? Hard to see how a turkey breast could be cooked for 75 minutes and reach a temperature of 165 degrees at some point inside, then be stored in a normal temp. fridge overnight, and still be frozen at all. – Lorel C. Sep 14 '16 at 22:03
  • @LorelC. How is the OP's fridge you mean? In any case, yes, fridges can freeze things... but they can't freeze just the inside. If the OP is right that it was just the inside that was frozen, then the 165F measurement must've been wrong. – Cascabel Sep 14 '16 at 22:04
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No: this is NOT safe. By the time your turkey was done the first time in the oven, the internal temperatures ranged from 165° to frozen (with the surface probably hotter). In the middle somewhere things were in the danger zone (40°F to 140°F) as the breast melted, with the oven's heat traveling in; some portions of that may have been in the danger zone for much of the cooking process. The refrigerator did NOT instantly cool the entire breast: it started cooling the surface while inside the oven's heat was still traveling in. It was a significant amount of time before the inside was all below the danger zone; combined with the period spent heating up, portions of the breast may have spent multiple hours neither cool nor warm enough to be safe.

When cooking meat goes as far wrong as this, the answer is always going to be a balance between "don't want to waste the meat" and "there's a real chance that eating it will be educational." It's anyone's guess which way your dinner will go. Don't risk it.

  • This argument would seem to also say that it's unsafe to cook the meat correctly then refrigerate it. In that case, the interior will get out of the danger zone briefly (from when it's nearly done to done, then you take it out of the oven), then it'll take even longer to cool. – Cascabel Sep 14 '16 at 21:24
  • @Jefromi, can you explain? Correctly cooked implies that the danger has been mitigated...no? My read of this answer is that it is possible that a portion of the interior (uncooked portion) remained in the danger zone too long. – moscafj Sep 14 '16 at 21:30
  • @moscafj The danger zone stuff still applies to fully cooked food; in order to make it safe, you're supposed to make sure that (1) the total time (before or after full cooking) in the danger zone is short enough, and (2) it at some point gets fully cooked. It's possible that this answer is still correct, but if it is, it's because the acceptable time in the danger zone is shorter pre-cooking than post-cooking, and the FDA "advice for the masses" danger zone stuff I know of doesn't make that distinction. – Cascabel Sep 14 '16 at 22:05
  • And the point of my initial comment is that the time the interior spends in the danger zone is not actually shorter in the OP's situation than in the normal cooking situation. The interior would've heated, gotten not-fully-cooked (apparently still frozen in places), then cooled in the fridge, then been reheated to a safe temperature. If it were fully cooked, it'd have spent longer in the danger zone before getting fully cooked, and it'd have taken longer to cool. So... again, conclusion could be right, but basing it purely on time in the danger zone doesn't make sense to me. – Cascabel Sep 14 '16 at 22:08
  • @Jefromi You're right: I'll clarify. – Daniel Griscom Sep 15 '16 at 0:36

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