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How to Reheat Turkey

What is the best way to reheat turkey so it’s moist and juicy? This is a big question around Thanksgiving, the holiday season, or after a big feast. I’ve tested four methods and I’ll show how to do all four plus the pros and cons of each.

How To Reheat Turkey

Best Way to Reheat Turkey

Choosing the best to way to reheat cold cooked turkey depends on a few factors. I have found the best way to recreate that fresh-from-the-oven flavor is by using the oven itself. However, if the skin is still on the turkey, then a stovetop may be best to get the skin nice and crispy. If you’re in a hurry or only preparing a single-serving, a microwave or air fryer is probably the best option.

Below, we’ll show you all the ways and let you choose, but first here are all the ways I tested:

  • Oven: Best tasting, great for large portions but slow.
  • Stove: Great for crispy skin, close to oven results, some argue it’s better.
  • Microwave: Good for single-servings or if you’re in a rush.
  • Air Fryer: Faster than an oven but tough to not accidently dry out the meat.

The key to reheating turkey is to keep it from drying out. You’ll find this is an issue no matter which method you try. There are some things you can do before you want to eat your leftovers that will help you enjoy your reheated turkey more the next day.

To begin, you’ll want to set your Thanksgiving meal and leftovers up for success by cooking a juicy, crispy turkey.

Storing Turkey

Storage is a big issue. If you shove a plate full of leftover turkey in the fridge with no cover or container, the turkey will begin to dry out and by the time you get to it again it could be an unappetizing, near-mummified bird.

How to Store Turkey

  1. For food safety refrigerate the turkey within two hours.
  2. Store turkey, stuffing and gravy in separate containers.
  3. Carve the turkey meat off the bone. You can leave drumsticks on the bone.
  4. If you have larger pieces of turkey, like an unsliced breast, store it intact to keep in the juices until the meat is reheated.
  5. Wrap in aluminum foil or plastic wrap before storing in a sealed container or resealable bag.

Some people choose to freeze their leftover turkey–this is possible but it is even more crucial to protect your leftovers from drying out in cold storage. Cooked turkey will start to dry out quickly in the freezer, so use within one month. 

Rehydrating for a Moist, Juicy Turkey

Rehydration is an important factor, frozen leftovers or not. Even fully sealed, your turkey leftovers may get a bit dry in storage and the reheating process won’t help. It’s smart to re-baste your leftovers with broth, gravy, or similar before and (depending on your method) even during your reheating process.

How to Moisten Leftover Turkey

  1. Let the turkey come to room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Slice any larger pieces into desired but similar sized sizes.
  3. Place the turkey in a single layer in a baking dish, skillet or other suitable “dish” for reheating method of choice.
  4. Pour 1 cup of turkey, vegetable, or chicken broth or stock over the turkey for every 2 cups of turkey.
  5. If your turkey was a bit over-cooked already dot the turkey with unsalted butter too.

Another way to moisten turkey is to brush gravy on top of the turkey. Again, if the turkey is dried out add butter to the gravy before brushing it on top. The turkey is dried out because it’s lacking fat and the butter will help restore the bird.

Now choose your reheating method…

How to Reheat Turkey in the Oven

It’s true that many leftovers taste best when reheated in a manner close to the original cooking method, and oven-roasted turkey leftovers are great coming out of the oven a second time–IF you remember NOT to use the same level of heat as you did when you cooked the raw bird. The key to reheating turkey is low-and-slow. You will need a cooking thermometer for best results–precision in the oven is a good thing.

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Prepare and moisten the turkey in a baking dish and cover with aluminum foil (see instructions above).
  3. Reheat the turkey for 30 minutes or until leftovers reach a minimum of 165°F. 30 minutes is based on two cups of turkey or about 1 pound. Add more or less time based on the amount of turkey.

How To Reheat Turkey On The Stove

Some feel this approach is faster and better than the oven option, and some swear by it for turkey that still has the skin on. You can indeed get juicier leftovers from reheating on the stovetop than in the microwave (depending on your equipment) but you will need to remember to add stock/gravy as you go to keep the turkey moist.

  1. Prepare and moisten the turkey in a skillet or pan (see instructions above).
  2. Cover the skillet or pan, bring the broth to a simmer, and cook until heated through and a temperature of at least 165°F.

You can make the skin a bit crispier using this method if you empty the skillet after heating, add oil and cook again for three to five minutes. You’ll want to cook this to the level of crispy you prefer, and it pays to babysit the turkey when crisping it up.

How to Reheat Turkey in the Microwave

Best for single-serving leftover meals or if you’re in a rush, cooking turkey in a microwave is efficient but you won’t be able to return the same moisture as in an oven or skillet.

  1. Let the turkey come to room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Prepare and moisten the turkey in a baking dish and cover with a paper towel or a microwave-safe lid (see instructions above).
  3. Heat on low power for 2 to 6 minutes, or until warm.

Turkey meat on the bone is not recommended in the microwave as it may result in uneven heating.

It’s fairly obvious to remind people to use a microwave safe container, but a less-obvious trick is to cook the leftovers on low power instead of full power. Reheating in the microwave can be tricky if you aren’t sure how powerful your unit is or how hot it can get at full power.

How to Reheat Turkey in an Air Fryer

The air fryer fad is a bit like the pressure cooker fad that happened around the same time; it’s an alternative cooking option that can make for healthier dishes (depending on the recipe) and save you some time in the prep process.

  1. Preheat the air fryer or Ninja Foodi to 300°F.
  2. Prepare and moisten the turkey in a baking dish that fits in your air fryer and cover with aluminum foil (see instructions above). You can also wrap in foil instead of a baking dish.
  3. Reheat the turkey for 8-10 minutes per pound of meat or until leftovers reach a minimum of 165°F. 8-10 minutes is based on two cups of turkey or about 1 pound. Add more or less time based on the amount of turkey.

Note: Both the size and power of your air fryer and the size of the leftovers can make the cook times vary slightly. The temperatures and times are a guide and make adjustments as needed.

Now that you know how to reheat leftover turkey here are the best ways to reheat gravy plus some creative Thanksgiving leftover recipes for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Monique McArthur
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