A fully cooked turkey provides a convenient way to serve Thanksgiving dinner in less time than it would take if cooking a raw turkey. Even though the turkey's cooked, you must follow careful instructions -- typically provided by the manufacturer -- to avoid the spread of foodborne illness. Precooked turkeys can be sliced and served cold or reheated and served as part of a traditional holiday meal. The USDA recommends having two thermometers on hand as you prepare any type of turkey: one to monitor your refrigerator's temperature and a food thermometer to check the turkey for doneness.
Defrost and Serve
Butterball strongly recommends thawing precooked turkeys for up to five days in the refrigerator before cooking. Thawing the turkey in the refrigerator keeps the meat below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which bacteria begins to spread rapidly, according to the USDA. You can eat cold precooked turkey in meals like sandwiches and salads as long as you do so while the meat is cold. Avoid letting cold precooked turkey sit outside the fridge for longer than 15 minutes.
Reheating Precooked Turkey
Place the cold precooked turkey in a roasting pan upside-down to allow the fat from the bird's underside to drip down while it's cooking, which keeps the breast from drying out. Cover the turkey with foil; place it in an oven preheated to 375 F and turn down the temperature to around 275 F, according to Tip Top Meats. Allow the turkey to reheat for around 5 minutes per pound; for example, reheat a precooked turkey weighing 10 pounds for around 50 minutes. To make homemade gravy, add a little bit of water to the bottom of the roaster. To ensure your precooked turkey is safe to eat, use a food thermometer to check its internal temperature. The USDA highly recommends cooking and reheating all poultry, including precooked turkey, to an internal temperature of 165 F.
The two safe ways to prepare stuffing are to either insert the stuffing inside a raw turkey or place it outside the turkey if it's precooked. If you decide to serve a precooked turkey, prepare the stuffing separately to avoid the spread of foodborne illness. This is especially important if you plan to count children, pregnant women, persons with compromised immune systems, or the elderly among your holiday dinner guests.
Treat precooked turkey leftovers as you would other poultry leftovers. Aim to store any leftover precooked turkey meat in the refrigerator no more than two hours after reheating it. You can keep precooked turkey leftovers in the refrigerator -- below 40 F -- for up to four days. Leftover turkey can be kept in the freezer for up to four months, according to the National Turkey Federation.
- Butterball: Frozen Fully Cooked Baked Turkey
- Foodsafety.gov: Holiday Food Safety Tips
- Seattle Times: Tips for Precooked Turkey Dinners
- Tip Top Meats: Reheating Instructions for a Precooked Turkey
- USDA: Food Safety Tips for Cooking Thanksgiving Turkeys
- The National Turkey Federation: Pre-Cooked Turkey Dinners