What to Do When Your Turkey is Done Way Too Early: A Guide to Saving Your Thanksgiving Feast

It’s everyone’s nightmare: the turkey is ruined. It’s probably not ruined, but it does need a lot of assistance or your lovely holiday meal will be a complete failure. Thus, before you toss that bird, consider these two short tips that just might come in handy.

The centerpiece of any Thanksgiving feast, the turkey, can be a source of both joy and anxiety. While we all strive for perfectly timed culinary masterpieces, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. If your turkey finds itself finished hours before your guests arrive, fret not! This guide will equip you with the knowledge and techniques to salvage your bird and ensure a delicious and stress-free Thanksgiving dinner.

Understanding the Situation:

First, let’s assess the situation. How early is “way too early”? If it’s just a matter of an hour or two you can simply let the turkey rest in a warm oven or a cooler with towels and foil. However if we’re talking several hours, we need to take more proactive measures.

Reheating Strategies:

Carving and Reheating:

This is a popular option for large gatherings. Carve the turkey and arrange the pieces on a platter Cover it with foil and reheat in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes before serving. This method helps retain moisture and allows for even reheating.

Slicing and Reheating:

For smaller gatherings slice the turkey and reheat individual portions in a microwave or oven. This is a quicker option but may result in slightly drier meat.

Keeping it Whole:

If you have the oven space, you can wrap the entire turkey in foil and keep it warm at a low temperature (around 170°F) until serving time. However, this may lead to overcooked breast meat.

Additional Tips:

  • Resting is Key: Regardless of the reheating method, always let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more succulent bird.
  • Baste with Juices: To prevent dryness, baste the turkey with its own juices or pan drippings while reheating.
  • Use a Thermometer: Ensure the internal temperature of the reheated turkey reaches 165°F before serving.
  • Don’t Overcook: Be mindful of reheating times to avoid drying out the meat.

Planning Ahead:

If you anticipate finishing the turkey early, consider these strategies:

  • Cook the Turkey in Parts: Roast the breast separately from the legs and thighs. This allows for different cooking times and easier reheating.
  • Brine the Turkey: Brining helps retain moisture and makes the meat more forgiving to overcooking.
  • Use a Slow Cooker: Cook the turkey in a slow cooker on low for several hours, then finish it in the oven for a crispy skin.

Remember, a “too early” turkey doesn’t have to spell disaster. By employing the right techniques and a bit of ingenuity, you can still deliver a delicious and satisfying Thanksgiving feast. So relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the holiday spirit!

Turkey Emergency Toolkit

There are a few things you need to have on hand as part of your turkey emergency kit. These items will be necessary at the last minute so you better make sure you are prepared.

  • An accurate meat thermometer
  • Lots of heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Lots of chicken or vegetable stock (low sodium preferred)
  • Spray bottle
  • Gravy mixes

The Problem: The Turkey Is Frozen Solid

The only effective way to thaw a turkey is by submerging it in cold water. Only cold water will keep bacteria from growing out of control. Now by cold, we mean 40 F/5 C. Any warmer and bacteria will grow. To put it simply, if you need to defrost a 22-pound turkey, you won’t be able to eat it until tomorrow. Allow 30 minutes for every pound. Since the water temperature can be 40 degrees F, keep it there. To maintain the desired temperature, submerge a thermometer in the water and add warm or cold water as needed.

No time to thaw the turkey? It IS possible to cook a turkey that is still frozen. It isnt ideal, but you will be able to save the meal. 1:20.

What to do if your turkey is done 2 hours early?

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