So, how was Thanksgiving? Hopefully the dinner went well—everyone had their favorite Thanksgiving side dishes on the table, you avoided a burnt turkey, there was enough Thanksgiving pie for everyone, and you got some quality time with the family, feeling thankful. And now, of course, you've got leftovers. If you're lucky, you've got leftovers for days.
That may be the best part of Thanksgiving. There are tons of recipes you can make with Thanksgiving leftovers, of course, including lots of ways to use that turkey. But the first thing we love doing with leftovers, the next day, is to make another Thanksgiving plate. We heap it high with potatoes, cornbread, cranberries, and, of course, a slice or two of the turkey.
But that brings up an issue: Do you reheat the turkey? Can you reheat the turkey? And if you do, how do you keep it from being too dry? After all that work cooking it in the first place, the last thing anyone wants is to wreck the leftovers.
Do You Need to Reheat It?
First, think about whether the turkey wouldn't be just as good (or maybe better) cold. If you're making a turkey sandwich or whipping up a turkey variation on chicken salad, then cold turkey is the way to go.
Even if you're piling up another Thanksgiving plate, you don't need to heat the turkey. Instead, just warm up the gravy on the stove or in the microwave, and pour a little over the meat. Trust us, it'll taste great, and you won't accidentally dry anything out.
However, if you absolutely must reheat the turkey, then we suggest one of the three methods below. We've ranked them from best (but slowest), faster (but still good), and fastest (but not that great). Choose the one for you based on your time limits and/or how much effort you actually want to put into all this.
Best Method: Reheat Turkey in the Oven
If you're trying to get your turkey back to that just-out-of-the-oven goodness then the only way to really do it is, of course, to use the oven. But if you just toss it in there on a sheet pan it'll dry right out. That's why we recommend cooking it low and slow, in a covered dish, preferably with a little stock and even some butter, to help suffuse the meat with moisture and flavor.
Our Chief Food Director, Kate Merker, recommends a method she learned from her Grandfather, which she writes about over at our sister site, Good Housekeeping. Her method: Place the meat (removed from the bone) in a shallow pan and cover it in a clean dish towel. Then moisten the towel with broth, wrap the pan in foil, and place in a 300°F oven until the turkey is steaming, about 30-45 minutes.
Even if you skip the towel, you'll want to use a covered pan, some broth or other moisture, and a low cooking temp, giving the turkey plenty of time to warm up.
Faster Method: Reheat Turkey On the Stove
If you're looking to reheat a small amount of turkey a little faster, then instead of heating up the oven, you may want to try cooking it on the stove. This is a little more delicate than the oven method—and a little easier to get wrong—but with some attention, you'll have mouthwatering turkey in a jiffy.
With this method, you just simmer the pieces in a little stock: Place the turkey in a saute pan or a skillet, and add about a 1/2 inch of stock. Simmer the turkey over medium-high heat for a few minutes until it's cooked all the way through (The USDA recommends an internal temp of 165°F as safest.) This is faster, but you'll need to keep a close eye on the pan to make sure it doesn't dry out or overcook.
Least Recommended: Reheat Turkey In a Microwave
If you just can't be bothered (which we get — it was just Thanksgiving after all), then you can use a microwave to warm up the leftover turkey. You'll want to use a covered dish or a microwave-safe plate cover, and pour a little stock or broth (or gravy, at least) over the meat. Then you'll want to microwave it on medium power, to avoid overcooking. Then cook it in 30-second increments, checking on it each time, until it's steaming and just cooked through. It won't be quite as mouthwateringly delicious as it was the day or two before. But, hey, you can't beat convenience.
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