For Less Stress, Roast Your Thanksgiving Turkey Ahead

Cook, Holidays, Learn, Thanksgiving, Tips & Techniques

Turkey is the star of most Thanksgiving dinners, but it can also be the most stressful component of the meal for home cooks. How many times have all of us wondered: Will it be ready when the guests arrive? Will the meat be dry? What if the bird isn’t actually cooked throughout?


If roasting a turkey under pressure sounds intimidating, consider another strategy: Cook the turkey ahead. Roasting your turkey ahead will save you the time spent testing and carving, allowing you to spend more time with your guests.


It’s easy: Simply cook it a day or two in advance, let it cool completely, then carve the bird into large pieces—breasts, wings, thighs and drumsticks. Store in a container in the refrigerator until the big day.


This method actually result in juicier meat—and an infinitely more relaxed host.


If you’re traveling, this is an easy way to transport your turkey. Then complete the following steps to reheat it once you reach your destination.


To reheat the turkey, put the meat back in a roasting pan, pour a bit of chicken stock over the turkey to keep it moist, and cover. Bake in a 325ºF oven alongside side dishes for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the bird. Once it’s warm, carve the turkey into slices; you’ll find that this is much easier to do with segments than it is with a whole bird.


Though a reheated turkey may lack the crispy skin of one right out of the oven, the method described here can actually result in juicier meat—and an infinitely more relaxed host.


25 comments about “For Less Stress, Roast Your Thanksgiving Turkey Ahead

  1. Turkey Time! - natickblog

    1. mel

      Works like a charm. MY mother roasted and carved her turkey the day before christmas, and now I do it. Reduces your stress on the big day and leaves your oven free for other items. The best cooking

  2. Woody

    I think it’s rude to serve reheated chicken broth turkey to unsuspecting guests

    1. Catherine

      Woody, you’re more than welcome to come to my house on Thanksgiving day and cook the turkey for us while simultaneously competing with my family members for oven space for the rolls…the pies…the random appetizers someone wants to “throw in the oven for 15 minutes…” etc. Oh, not to mention having four people in your kitchen using the oven, stove, microwave, and two Crock Pots while you’re in charge of making sure your turkey is done and perfectly timed — so as not to seem “rude” to people who should already know you well enough to permit you this one indulgence to simplify your own life.

      I think I can live with being considered rude ONE day out of the year. Others may have to live with that personality flaw more often.

      1. Woody

        Catherine – your comments make me feel extremely uncomfortable and unsafe. I only ask that you Alert your guests they’re being surved day old ,warmed over turkey.

        1. laura mcloughlin

          While Thanksgiving is promoted as a”food” day, it’s really about spending time with family and friends. My family and friends would be happy to eat whatever I served for the chance to spend the day together!

        2. Aj

          I think you have forgotten the reason for the day. Geez, let go of the little stuff.

        3. Linda

          Woody, you need to relax. Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy friends and family. The food is just a nice plus.

  3. Barb Zee

    Woody, it’s obvious that you do not cook. There is absolutely nothing wrong with pre-roasting a turkey a day or two before serving.It’s not “leftovers”. If what Catherine said makes you feel somehow “unsafe”, perhaps you should refrain from making the type af comment you made.

  4. Karen Walker

    This is wonderful. I have been cooking my turkey the day ahead, for the past three 3 years. No slippery greasy piping hot bird, taking up the oven, making my sink dirty, burning my fingers, taking up Space.
    I cut the bird into large portions and pour all the broth over it, and into the fridge it goes. The next day I slice and reheat it.
    Woody….get a grip. Obviously you never had to clean the pans, cook the dinner, serve the guests and entertain your company all at once.
    This is a game changer!
    If you want the roasting turkey smell…it will still be there when you reheat the turkey.

  5. Pam Lukens

    I decided to roast my turkey today with Thanksgiving being tomorrow. I feel much better with the task being out of the way. Time to carve the turkey and refrigerate! Much less stress for me tomorrow!

  6. Robin

    This is a make or break thing for me. The stress of doing Christmas dinner for 17+ ranging in age from 3 to 86 with some food restrictions due to one on dialysis plus actually trying to enjoy the day is just too much. Especially as I tend to be a perfectionist. I will trust “Williams Sonoma” when they say that this can even result in a juicier turkey. This sounds like a clever idea, and if it reduces kitchen chaos we will all have a happier day. Making memories with my family is far more important. (Blessings to Woody. Hope life gets better for you soon.)

  7. Mel

    I’m sure Woody’s in the kitchen helping “the little woman” with the cooking, carving, mashing, stirring, setting the table, cutting desserts , entertaining guests. I hope he’s not sitting in his barco-lounger with a beer in his hand watching football.

  8. Mel

    I’m sure Woody’s in the kitchen helping “the little woman” with the cooking, carving, mashing, stirring, setting the table, cutting desserts , entertaining guests. I hope he’s not sitting in his barco-lounger with a beer in his hand watching football. I’ve been cooking 40 pounds of turkey every year for my church one day ahead and it works beautifully.

  9. vague moon

    do you have to carve the turkey, can you just leave it as is and refrigerate it until it is time to reheat?

    1. Peg

      Cutting the meat off the bones will likely help it to cool quicker and then reheat faster when you’re ready to serve…. plus it’s one less thing to mess with on “the day of”… carving takes time and lots of counter space!

  10. Barb

    I made a Turkey yesterday I thought It was cooked but when I went to carve it today I noticed parts were still bloody and raw. I put in the oven today. Now I am wondering is it safe to eat since it sat in partially raw juices o er night until I noticed it had not cooked all the way through.
    Any comments

  11. heather

    Looks like Woody has a lot of haters! Reheating the turkey is preparing a whole, eneaten turkey after it has been cooked the day or two ahead.Its NOT LEFTOVERS WOODY!!!!! The chicken broth you pour over the top not only helps keep it moist, it also helps preserve the meat!!!!

  12. Peg

    I roast two 20 lb birds ahead of time, that’s the minimum amount we’ll need. I then put a smaller 12 lb bird in on Thanksgiving day for “presentation” and back-up! Much less stressful for me!!!! (and the one year when the “day of” bird wasn’t completely done, whew!!! I didn’t have 38 people waiting on it!!!)

  13. The Easiest Way to Tackle your Turkey • Your Reclaimed Life

  14. Charlene Chapman

    Do I stay home Christmas Eve so I can get up before sunrise to cook my Christmas turkey or do I stay overnight at my daughter and son-in-law’s house so I am there when my grandchildren wake up Christmas morning? This is a no-brainer. Peg, you are amazing! 38 people!


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