Preparing Your Thanksgiving Turkey Before the Big Day

Are you looking for a way to reduce stress on Thanksgiving Day and spend less time in the kitchen? I may have the perfect solution. Why not prepare the turkey a day or two ahead and have it ready to pop in the oven or microwave, carved and ready to serve.

Here’s how to prepare your turkey in advance:

  • Roast the turkey as usual, stuffed or unstuffed. I would recommend using the Open Roasting Pan method, of course.
  • When done allow the turkey to rest for 20-30 minutes.
  • If the turkey is stuffed, remove stuffing right away, make sure to place in a shallow container and refrigerate uncovered until cooled. It is best to keep refrigerated until ready to reheat.
  • Fully carve the turkey. Remove breast sections and remaining parts (wings, drums, thighs).
  • Refrigerate the turkey. Be sure to follow the 4 T’s of Turkey Food Safety when handling your turkey and leftovers!
  • Overlap the sliced meat and pieces in a shallow ovenproof or microwave-safe baking dish, not too deep so it will heat quickly. Spoon some broth you made from the giblets or canned chicken broth over slices for added moisture – or cover the slices with turkey gravy. Then seal tightly with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate.
  • Note: Do not attempt to refrigerate the whole turkey. That’s not food safe, plus reheating would take almost as long as starting with a raw turkey. For more turkey safe tips, you can check out our 4 T’s of Turkey Food Safety on Butterball.com.

On Thanksgiving Day, when the oven is clear and dinner is about an hour away, prepare the refrigerated turkey for serving.

Here’s how to re-heat the turkey:

  • Place sliced turkey in a single layer in an oven-proof baking dish.
    • Sprinkle with broth, cover tightly with foil and heat in a 350° F oven or countertop roaster until hot, 30-40 minutes.
    • Or, microwave on medium-high for 10 minutes.
  • Temperature of heated turkey pieces and slices should reach 140-150° F.
  • Bake the refrigerated stuffing in a 350 degrees F oven for 40-50 minutes or to a center temperature of 165° F.
  • Cover stuffing baking dish for a moist top or leave uncovered for a crisp, drier top.

Now sit back and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner!

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