When prepared properly, turkey is moist and tender, but when reheating turkey, it can sometimes lose its juiciness and texture. After safe storage — with stuffing removed and the turkey stashed in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking — leftover turkey can be served cold.
But if you're craving a reprise of your hot turkey meal, the reheated meat doesn't have to taste like rubbery leftovers. In fact, storing cooked turkey overnight and reheating it the next day can make it taste just as yummy and juicy as the freshly roasted bird straight from the oven.
Read more: How to Cook a 25-Pound Turkey
Reheating Turkey in an Oven
Step 1: Preheat the Oven
To prevent bacterial or microorganism growth, preheat the oven to 325 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, using a lower temperature will warm up the meat too slowly and may allow bacteria to survive.
Step 2: Carve the Pieces
If the turkey was refrigerated whole, slice it into smaller pieces to allow for quick and even reheating. Legs and wings may be left intact, but breast and thigh meat can be carved into slices.
Step 3: Prep the Turkey
Place the pieces of turkey in a shallow pan — a rimmed cake or casserole pan is ideal. If possible, avoid layering meat and try to place pieces so that they don't overlap. If you're feeding a larger crowd, it may be necessary to use more than one pan.
Step 4: Keep It Moist
Pour leftover turkey or chicken broth over the meat, creating a 1/2-inch bath of broth in the bottom of the pan. You may substitute store-bought turkey, chicken or vegetable broth or stock. If you don't have any broth, just use fresh drinking water. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.
Step 5: Cook the Turkey
Reheat the turkey until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of each piece reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit — the fully cooked turkey temperature, according to the University of Illinois Extension. Avoid touching the bone with the thermometer as it may register higher than the meat's actual temperature.
Reheating Turkey on the Stovetop
Step 1: Use a Shallow Skillet
Place carved turkey pieces in a shallow skillet. If you want to reheat bone-in meat and boneless breast meat, separate the bone-in and boneless pieces into separate skillets.
Step 2: Maintain the Moisture
Pour broth over the turkey pieces until the turkey is laying in a bath of about a 1/2 inch of liquid. Turn the stove burners to medium to high heat.
Step 3: Warm the Turkey
Cover the pan tightly with a lid and heat the turkey until it's warmed through. If the pan doesn't have a lid, cover it tightly with aluminum foil instead. Test it by inserting a meat thermometer, making sure the internal temperature of the thickest portion of turkey is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as advised by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Reheating Turkey in the Microwave
Step 1: Prep the Pieces
Separate bone-in and boneless pieces into separate glass or microwave-safe dishes.
Step 2: Add the Liquid
Pour broth over the turkey pieces until the meat is resting in about a 1/2-inch of liquid. Cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap, but don't let the plastic wrap touch the meat. Do not cut a slit in the plastic wrap.
Step 3: Heat the Turkey
Reheat the turkey, turning the dish every two minutes if the microwave doesn't have a turntable. The turkey is ready to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer. Your microwave manual should provide directions for the appropriate power level for reheating poultry based on the wattage of your microwave.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Let's Talk Turkey - A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey"
- University of Illinois Extension: "Traditional Roast Turkey (Unstuffed)"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Complete List of Cooking Temperatures"
- University of Florida Extension: Holiday Cooking; Turkey Food Safety
- University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service: Turkey Talk; Darlene Christensen, Debbie Popp, Bonnie Ellenwood and Jane Wolery
- Cook's Illustrated: Reheating Leftover Turkey