In the days following Thanksgiving, we always see a surge in people searching for ‘how to reheat turkey’. We’re not surprised by this — and you probably aren’t, either.
Thanksgiving dinners are dominated by turkey. It’s not unusual for families to be unable to finish off their colossal Thanksgiving roast turkey and have to pack it up in the fridge for later.
If you have the same problem, here are four of HealthyRecipes101’s best methods for reheating turkey.
Can You Cook Turkey the Day Before and Reheat?
“Reheating turkey” doesn’t necessarily refer to leftovers. Roasting turkey a day ahead is a very popular preparation method for Thanksgiving.
Basically, it involves roasting and carving the turkey the day before Thanksgiving. Then, cover it and store it in the fridge.
On Thanksgiving, all you have to do is to take the pre-roasted turkey out of the fridge, reheat with stuffing and gravy, and serve.
This preparation method is perfectly acceptable and eliminates any worries about the turkey not being roasted in time.
For this purpose, as well as reheating leftovers, you can use any of the four methods below. However, because this is the first serving, we only recommend using the oven to reheat, it will be much better as a result.
Best Ways to Reheat Turkey
With that said, the four reheating methods are: reheating in the oven, on the stovetop, in the air fryer, or in the microwave.
The list above is arranged in order of quality.
Reheating in the oven generally gives you the best result, while microwaving delivers a poorer quality. Nonetheless, the microwave does have its use — which we will soon find out.
1. How to reheat turkey in the Oven
The secret to reheating anything is to cook it again in the exact manner that you first prepared it. If you cooked it in the oven, reheat it in the oven. Made it on the stove? Put it back on the stove.
This rule applies to our roast turkey, also. Most roast turkey recipes are prepared in the oven; so naturally, this is the best way to reheat it.
Step 1: Preheat the Oven and a Baking Tray
Turn the temperature dial of your oven to 350°F, then preheat for 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 2: Carve Your Turkey
Thin slices will reheat quicker than whole chunks of meat. So, if you have a turkey breast, cut it up into thin slices. As for the legs, separate the meat from the bones.
Lay the turkey slices on a baking dish. Spread them out as evenly across the surface of the dish as possible.
Step 3: Add the Gravy, Stuffing and Butter
Take a spoonful of gravy and drizzle it over the meat. If you want to cook the turkey alongside some stuffing, drip the gravy on it, too. The gravy will give it the signature “turkey” flavor.
Drizzle enough that there’s at least a ¼ inch of gravy sitting at the bottom of the dish. If you have some extra gravy, you can keep adding until it builds up to a ½ inch.
Dot the turkey with a few cubes of butter to further enhance the flavor.
Once you’re finished, cover up the dish and the turkey with aluminum foil.
Step 4: Bake
Turn on the oven and bake the turkey for 45 to 50 minutes. By the time the oven’s finished, the meat should be piping hot.
If you have a thermometer at home, you can check the temperature of the meat. It should read 165°F, which is the minimum “safe” internal temperature, according to the USDA.
Step 5: Rest and Serve
Allow the turkey to rest on the kitchen counter for a couple of minutes before serving.
Definitely. The oven is arguably the most popular way for people to reheat food since it is so versatile and accessible.
On HealthyRecipes101, we have shown how to reheat a variety of foods using the oven.
For example, our guide on how to reheat lasagna in the oven (and how to reheat pasta in general) is quite popular. If you love Italian food, you’ll be glad to know that you can also reheat pizza in the oven.
2. On the Stovetop
This method will work best if you’re short on time and don’t have a lot of turkey to reheat.
Reheating turkey on the stovetop takes only a couple of minutes and the result will be quite good if you do it right. The turkey will remain juicy and relatively tender.
On the downside, there’s not as much cooking space on a skillet than, say, an oven’s baking tray or an air fryer’s inner pot. So, if you have a lot of turkey to reheat, this method isn’t the most efficient out there.
Another problem is that this method will require you to have some kitchen skill.
You need to pay attention to the reheating process and take the turkey off the stove when it’s reached the right temperature. Unlike the oven, there isn’t going to be a timer to halt the cooking process.
Step 1: Prepare the Turkey
Slice up the turkey into small pieces that can fit onto a skillet. Once that’s done, add the slices to the skillet in a single layer. If you layer the slices, the top ones will be undercooked, while the ones stuck at the bottom will be burnt.
Add between ¼ to ½ inch of broth to the skillet. The broth will keep the turkey from becoming too dry while it’s heating up.
Cover up the skillet with a lid.
Step 2: Cook on the Stove
Place the skillet on the stove and simmer over medium-high heat.
Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the turkey slices are heated all the way through. A thermometer will come in handy. The turkey will be ready when it reaches a minimum of 165°F.
At this stage, you’re finished and can plate the turkey. However, if you like to enjoy your turkey extra-crispy, there’s an optional step you can perform.
First, transfer the reheated turkey onto a plate and put it aside.
Take out a second, unused skillet.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a spare skillet, you can reuse the old skillet that you have reheated the turkey in. Simply discard the broth in the old skillet, wash with water, then dry using a dry towel.
Add a teaspoon of oil onto the skillet and heat it on the stove with high heat.
When it’s hot enough, add the turkey with the skin side down. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the skin is crispy.
Step 3: Serve
No need to rest, serve straight away while the turkey is still hot.
The stovetop is good for reheating particularly sensitive food in that it allows you to flexibly change the temperature.
You’re also more “involved” in the reheating process. With other methods, all you really do is press a couple of buttons and wait. When you use a stovetop (and typically either a skillet or a pot), you’ll be constantly on the go and paying close attention to the food as it warms.
If you do it right, the results will be much better than with any other method on the list.
As an example, here we demonstrate how to reheat steak on a skillet. Similar to turkey, you’ll need some finesse to get it just right — juicy and tender.
The stovetop can also be used to reheat foods that need to be boiled. Reheating corn on the cob is a good example of this.
3. In the Air Fryer
If you have an air fryer at home, it will provide you with a quick and simple way to bring your turkey back to temperature.
Compared to the oven, it is much quicker. Your turkey will typically need only 15 minutes to warm up. As a bonus, if your turkey still has the skin on, the air fryer will give it a crispy finish.
Step 1: Preheat the Air Fryer
Tune the temperature dial to 350°F and preheat. This should take around 5 minutes with an air fryer.
Step 2: Reheat
Place your turkey in the air fryer and close the lid. Cook for 15 minutes. Every 5 minutes or so, turn the turkey to ensure that it’s evenly heated.
After 15 minutes, open the lid and check on the turkey to see if it’s properly heated. If it hasn’t, you can cook for another 5 minutes or until it’s sufficiently warm (165°F at minimum).
Step 3: Serve
Take the turkey out of the air fryer and plate it. Serve immediately, no need to rest.
Although it is not as common as either a microwave or an oven, the air fryer is a good way to reheat food. It is especially good for foods that you want to be crispy.
You can learn how to reheat fried chicken in the air fryer here. The air fryer will do an excellent job of crisping up the skin, giving your reheated fried chicken a delicious texture. The air fryer works if you want to reheat chicken wings, too.
And if you would like to enjoy your chicken with a side of fries, you can actually reheat fries in the air fryer, as well.
You can reheat almost any meal and expect good results. You can even reheat mashed potatoes in the air fryer. The results will be great!
4. In the Microwave
The microwave is the least recommended method since it will substantially dry out the meat. You can do a few things to minimize moisture loss, but there’s no way to avoid this 100%. Once the turkey is zapped by the microwave, it will become slightly dry and chewy.
As a result, reheating in the microwave is sort of like a Hail Mary pass. Use it only if you absolutely cannot do any of the three methods above.
However, the microwave isn’t all bad. It’s the quickest way to reheat turkey on the list. You only need to zap for 2 to 3 minutes and the turkey will be warm enough to eat.
Step 1: Slice Up the Turkey
Slice the turkey into thin, bite-size slices.
The first benefit of this is that it ensures the meat is going to be cooked all the way through. If you try to microwave a whole turkey, the exterior is going to dry out before the inside has the chance to warm up.
Second, slicing will shorten cooking time. Slices will reheat quicker than whole meat chunks and it’s not just the time that you will save, but also the turkey’s juicy tenderness.
The longer the turkey spends in the microwave, the more chewy and rubbery it’s going to become due to moisture loss. Making cooking time as short as possible is how you preserve the quality of the meat.
Step 2: Prepare the Turkey for the Microwave
Place the turkey slices in a microwave-safe container. We recommend adding some leftover gravy and a few cubes of butter. The gravy will keep the meat moist and the butter will enhance the flavor.
Cover up the container with either a lid or plastic wrap.
Step 3: Turn On the Microwave
Place the turkey in the microwave. Cook at medium-high power (around 70%) for 1 minute.
After 1 minute, open the door and check on the turkey to see if it has warmed up yet. If it’s still cold, put it back and heat in 30-second bursts until it does.
Step 4: Serve
Bring out and serve immediately, no need for a rest period.
The microwave is versatile and can be used to reheat just about anything. The only problem is, it doesn’t typically do it well.
Still, if you have no other option, the microwave is better than nothing at all.
Seafood can be handled by the microwave quite easily. Two good examples can be found in our guides on how to reheat salmon and how to reheat crab legs. If you’re careful, they won’t lose too much moisture.
The microwave isn’t always the last reheating method to be recommended, however. In the case of reheating rice, it’s actually the best method.
And there you have everything you need to know about how to reheat turkey.
Try out any of the four methods in your kitchen and post the result in the comment section below!
Luna Regina is an accomplished writer and author who dedicates her career to empowering home cooks and making cooking effortless for everyone. She is the founder of HealthyKitchen101.com and HealthyRecipes101.com, where she works with her team to develop easy, nutritious recipes and help aspiring cooks choose the right kitchen appliances.