Can I Cook My Turkey The Day Before And Reheat It?

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One of the things that has always bothered me is how to organize my time and space when I’m making a turkey for the holidays.

So I naturally started wondering if I can cook my turkey the day before and reheat it later.

And after some trial and error, I came to some interesting conclusions.

Keep reading to find out if cooking a turkey ahead of time is worthwhile.

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Can I cook my turkey the day before the feast?

Roasting a large turkey for Christmas or Thanksgiving can take its toll even if you’re a seasoned cook.

That’s why you need to have nerves of steel and the patience of a buddhist monk if you’re cooking the turkey right before the holiday feast.

In this case, cooking your turkey the day before the event starts to seem like a more viable option.

But is roasting a turkey ahead of time actually feasible?

Or will it lose its flavors once it enters your fridge?

If you’re short on time or space, you can cook your turkey the day before and keep it in the fridge. The turkey will retain its juiciness and flavors, as long as you reheat it properly on the next day.

However, you’ll need to be careful when storing your bird, since it can also dry out when it’s refrigerated.

How to cook a turkey ahead of time and reheat it before the feast?

The most important thing when you’re making a turkey the night before a big holiday is to make sure that it stays moist.

This means that you’ll need to let the turkey rest, carve it and cover it with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

Even though these steps might seem quite simple, there are a few small details you can easily miss.

That’s why I’ve made a detailed step-by-step guide that will help you along the way.

Anyways, here’s how to make a turkey ahead of time and reheat it when it’s time to eat:

1. Roast the turkey in the oven

Start by roasting your turkey in the oven as you would typically do.

Take the turkey out once the internal temperature of the thighs reaches 175°F (80°C) and wrap it in aluminum foil.

If you don’t have a thermometer, you can check if your turkey is done by piercing its mid-thigh muscle.

After you wrap the turkey, you should let it rest for at least 45 minutes at room temperature.

This will allow the meat to reabsorb all of the juices and stay moist.

Having said that, the meat will become more tender if you rest it for as long as it takes you to cook it.

One of the ways you can do this is by using the warm temperature setting on a crockpot.

If you want to check how to rest your turkey while keeping it warm without a crockpot click here.

Anyways, don’t forget to save the turkey drippings into a container as you’ll need them to keep the meat moist.

a whole cooked turkey in  an aluminum pan about to be wrapped in aluminum foil for resting

by rzart123

2. Carve the turkey

Once the turkey is fully rested, you should grab a sharp enough knife and start carving it.

Begin by cutting off one of the legs and separating the thigh. Continue by carving the turkey breast on the same side and slicing it across the grain.

Repeat for the other side of the turkey and then cut off its wings. The wings are saved for last as they help to stabilize the turkey.

carved turkey breast and thighs on a large plate

by Calxb

3. Transfer the carved turkey into a pan

Transfer the carved turkey into a baking pan that’s big enough to fit in your fridge.

Make sure that the pieces of meat are overlapping or there’s little space between them.

This will reduce the surface exposure of the meat to air and prevent it from drying out.

After this, you should tightly cover the turkey with plastic wrap so there aren’t any air pockets left in the pan.

Even though it’s not mandatory, you can also cover the pan with an additional layer of aluminum foil.

When you’ve finished wrapping up the turkey, you should place it in the fridge.

Keep in mind that it’s best to leave the turkey in your refrigerator for no more than 3 days.

4. Reheat the turkey on the next day

On the day of the holiday feast, take the turkey out of the fridge and let it sit out for at least half an hour.

This will prevent overcooking and allow the turkey to reheat more evenly.

After the meat is fully rested, you should remove the plastic wrap and spread out the pieces in a single layer.

If the pieces are stacked up, the ones on the top will burn before those on the bottom warm up.

When you spread the meat out, you should take some of the drippings you saved the day before and pour them over.

This will keep the turkey moist and also prevent it from overcooking.

The only thing you need to do from this point on is to cover the meat with aluminum foil and put it in an oven set to 350°F (175°C) for roughly 20 to 30 minutes (but no more!).

Since ovens can vary from one model to another, I recommend checking the internal temperature of the meat to see if it’s fully warmed up.

According to the USDA, cooled foods including turkey are safe to eat when they’re reheated to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Even though this might seem like a stretch, it’s probably a good idea to follow these guidelines since food poisoning is no joke.

5. Keep the turkey warm before serving

Sometimes your guests are about to be late, or for some reason your holiday plan works better if you take care of reheating the turkey a bit earlier in the day.

In that case you’d need to keep the bird warm for a bit longer after reviving its taste with the reheating.

One of the ways you can do this is by using the warm temperature setting on a crockpot.

Another way is storing it in a cooler.

If you want to check out more ways to keep your turkey warm without a crockpot click here.

My short recap

With this make ahead turkey method you’ll say goodbye to all the grueling and restless holiday preparations.

And as long as you follow each step carefully, your turkey won’t dry out and stay just as juicy as the day you made it.

Feel free to share any thoughts or questions you might have down in the comments.

Next, you can skim through my recipe ideas for make ahead chicken meals!

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