How to Reheat Turkey The Best Way

We tested multiple ways of reheating turkey, from a slow cook in the oven to a quick reheat in the microwave.

Sliced Turkey with Gravy
Photo by Meredith.

It's hard to deny it: One of the most exciting parts of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner is leftovers. Turkey leftovers are just as much a part of the holiday tradition as fresh mashed potatoes and warm gravy. They make the perfect next-day lunch, dinner, and even (if you're brave enough to keep eating) a midnight snack.

As much as we love turkey leftovers for the convenience, leftovers are best enjoyed when we can enjoy them for taste. Even a perfectly cooked turkey can easily become over-zapped in the reheating process.

To make the most out of Thanksgiving food, we tested multiple ways for reheating turkey, from a slow cook in the oven to a quick reheat in the microwave. Whether you're eating turkey as-is or stuffing it into a sandwich, use these tips on reheating your turkey leftovers for a tender, mouth-watering treat:

The Best Way To Reheat Turkey: Oven Method

Our testing found that the best way to cook a whole turkey (and reheat it the next day) is to cook it low-and-slow in the oven. Here's how:

1. Preheat the oven.

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Let the turkey come to room temperature.

Start by leaving your turkey leftovers out on the counter for 10 to 30 minutes before reheating. This will return the meat to room temperature, and help it reheat more evenly.

3. Carve and place in a baking tray.

If you haven't already, carve the turkey up into smaller pieces before reheating it. Keep your cuts as uniform as possible to prevent the smaller bits from drying out. Remove what you can from the bone (drumsticks are fine as-is) and place the turkey in a single layer on a baking tray.

4. Add moisture.

Splash with a bit of leftover broth or stock and cover the baking dish in aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. The aluminum foil will prevent moisture from evaporating too quickly and the slow, low temperature will help prevent the turkey from losing flavor.

Runner-Up: Reheat Turkey in the Microwave

With all the effort you put into preparing, planning, and cooking your holiday meal, it's tempting to turn to the microwave to reheat turkey leftovers. Our testing found that reheating turkey leftovers in the microwave is perfectly efficient, but you do lose a significant amount of moisture the longer the turkey sits in the fridge. For a quick reheat the night of turkey dinner, the microwave is the way to go. However, the further away you get from Thursday, opt for the oven method to hold on to as much flavor as possible.

1. Let the turkey come to room temperature.

First, allow turkey to come to room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before reheating it. Reheating room-temperature turkey in the microwave will give you a more even cooking experience.

2. Slice and microwave.

Slice the turkey up into small, even pieces and place it on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with a paper towel or a microwave-safe lid. Heat on low power for 2 to 5 minutes, or until warm.

How to Store Leftover Turkey

Depending on how you want to reheat or repurpose your turkey leftovers, set yourself up for success by storing your turkey properly. Carve any turkey up into more manageable pieces before storing it. This will save you some work the next day, and will help you fit it easily in the fridge. Place turkey leftovers in airtight containers or gallon bags, pushing out as much air as possible.

Another way to ensure flavor is to place the turkey bones in a slow cooker and make fresh turkey stock overnight. This will help the reheating process, and can be used in future recipes as well.

How to Prevent Leftover Turkey From Drying Out

When reheating your leftover turkey, it also pays to account for how well your turkey was cooked. Turkey is a naturally dry meat. If your turkey was a bit over-cooked before the reheating process, don't be afraid to introduce a little extra butter or gravy to the reheating process. Dried out turkey isn't just lacking moisture; it's also lacking fat—something that both of these ingredients can help restore. Here are two methods of adding moisture back to your bird:

  1. Add butter to gravy, and brush it on top before reheating OR

2. Smother your leftovers in equal parts gravy and stock and pour it over dry turkey before using your reheating method of choice. This mixture hits a winning combination of flavor, texture (it's thin enough for the meat to absorb), and revitalizing fat content.

How to Use Leftover Turkey

When it comes to repurposing turkey leftovers, the possibilities are endless. Turkey leftovers can basically be cooked into anything that uses a broth or a sauce base.

Turkey is an excellent healthy substitute for beef and pork. Try baking your leftovers into turkey pot pie, turkey enchiladas, or turkey tetrazzini. For the perfect cold-weather dish, use your leftovers in a Southwestern turkey soup or a creamy turkey curry. Want turkey for breakfast? Toss it with sweet potatoes for a turkey hash.

Forgo reheating all together and combine leftovers with a cranberry turkey sandwich or a leftover Thanksgiving salad. Both are so easy, even the non-cooks in the family can whip them together on their own. Plus, they'll keep the holiday flavors alive and well.

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