How to Reheat Turkey to Ensure the Best Thanksgiving (and Leftovers) Ever

Kate Merker, Samantha MacAvoy
·3 mins read
Photo credit: Mike Garten
Photo credit: Mike Garten

From Good Housekeeping

Whether you’re trying to get on top of it this Turkey Day (we hear ya!), or you've already made it through Thanksgiving dinner and have heaps of leftover turkey to enjoy, you’ll need to know how to reheat turkey the right way to preserve that juicy flavor we wait all year to eat. Here, we’ll share our go-to method for reheating turkey without drying it out, plus some tips on how to reheat turkey in the microwave, and even a quick guide to cooking a turkey the day before and reheating it. Yes, it can be done!

How do you reheat turkey without drying it out?

My grandfather, who owned a restaurant in Queens for decades and reheated countless turkeys in his lifetime, swears by this foolproof method to reheating turkey:

  • After roasting the turkey and carving it, slice the thigh and breast meat at as even in thickness as possible.

  • Arrange the slices in a single layer in a shallow pan or baking dish and drape a clean dish towel over the top.

  • Pour gently simmering chicken broth over the towel just until it’s damp.

  • Wrap the dish in foil and place it in a 300°F oven until the turkey is steaming (the USDA recommends taking the turkey to 165°F). Don’t mess with the temperature, keep it low or the turkey will become tough and stringy.

How to reheat turkey in the microwave or stovetop

Reheating turkey low and slow in the oven is great for larger portions, but if you just need a personal serving (say, to build an epic turkey sandwich), we recommend skipping the oven and using the microwave or stovetop.

  • In the microwave: Cut the turkey into similar sized pieces and arrange in a shallow baking dish (the sides help it steam). Sprinkle with a bit of chicken broth, then cover the bowl. Microwave on medium until heated through.

  • On the stovetop: Add ¼-inch broth to a large skillet and arrange the turkey in a single layer on top. Cover the skillet, bring the broth to a simmer, and cook until heated through.

Can you cook a turkey the day before and reheat?

If you're like us, you too are on the hunt to get ahead this Thanksgiving. While you certainly can cook an entire turkey the day before and then reheat it using the method described above, we would suggest getting a jump start on your Thanksgiving side dishes instead. Make and freeze pie crust, bang out your cranberry sauce — which will keep for at least three days or try some make-ahead Thanksgiving appetizers.

If you must make your bird ahead of time, follow these steps:

  1. Roast the turkey as you normally would (try one of our best Thanksgiving turkey recipes).

  2. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes (tip out any juices and reserve for gravy).

  3. Carve turkey, separating the legs (keeping them separate is the best way to reheat breasts and wings). Separate the drumstick from the thighs, then remove the bones from the thighs (it is easier to do this when the turkey is still slightly warm).

  4. Place the pieces in airtight containers and refrigerate overnight.

  5. The morning of, remove the pieces from the refrigerator, then slice the thigh and breast meat into pieces (try and make them as even in thickness as possible).

  6. Arrange the slices in a single layer in shallow pans or baking dishes and drape a clean dish towel over the top.

  7. Bring some chicken broth to a simmer, then gently pour the chicken broth over the towel just until it is wet.

  8. Wrap the dish in foil and warm in a 300°F to 325°F oven until the turkey reaches 165°F.

Note that when breaking down the bird, keep each piece as intact as possible. The more you break it down and slice it, the greater the possibility of it drying out.

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