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Cooking whole turkey the day before and reheating?

I've read through all the turkey posts thus far like a mad man looking for a reliable answer to this question. If i completely cook the turkey the day before thanksgiving is it going to still taste delicious if the whole bird is refrigerated and warmed back up the next day. The reason i ask is that i'm cooking several turkeys for the women i work with and i want to know that its still going to be amazing the next day and how to reheat the whole bird.

Any and all suggestions are welcome. This is what i'm considering. Brining, drying, aromatics in the cavity, light cherry smoke, 350 with the platesetter in. rubbing some salt, pepper, and thyme, rosemary crush on outside of bird with a little cornstarch to crisp up the skin. also icing down the big breasts before hand to get good even juicy bird.

Pulling when done, letting cool without carving and placing the whole bird under foil in the fridge. what do i tell my coworkers as to reheating, what do i need to prevent ( i'm assuming soggyness is my biggest enemy)?

fellow eggheads thanks you for any experience, tips and advice you all can share.


  • jlsmjlsm Posts: 868
    This is a tough one. I've always found reheated whole turkeys dry. I would recommend cooking atop a drip pan filled with broth, an onion or two, carrot and celery. Carve the turkey after resting and cover with the enhanced broth. Give her some extra to make gravy. 
    Owner of a large and a beloved mini in Philadelphia
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 17,990

    i like the idea of making the extra broth for the reheat. i might give the turkey whole and let them slice it up for a reheat in a lasagna pan with the broth
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 4,777
    I've never tried anything close to what you are attempting. But here is what i can offer.

    First off, I don't think the flavor will be hurt, but I can't imagine how to retain any crispness.

    I usually make some good stock in advance of cooking a turkey. I use a pressure cooker, so it doesn't take all day. Typically, I end up w. a couple of quarts of stock that gels in the 'fridge. Some of that goes toward gravy. When I strip the carcass of the leftover meat, that is stored w. some of the gel/stock poured over. It re-heats very well.

    So here is my suggestion. Besides cooking the turkeys, make some stock, or cook some turkey wings and necks in deep disposable aluminum pans w. some water. Remove the parts when there is a nice brown pool. When the turkey is done to 155 in the breast, quickly rub some butter over the hot brown skin. Place in the foil pan w. the cooking liquid, and/or, add stock. Seal with a foil cover. Chill as quickly as possible.

    I think that will ensure the bottom of the turkey does not dry, and puts enough butter fat on it that it might re-crisp.

    Re-heating? Don't quite know. My inclination would be to put the foiled sealed pan into a 350 oven, and watch till I saw some steam creeping out, or hear a little bubbling from the fluid. Then, unfoil, and cook till the breast was 140.

    Good luck! I do believe the flavor will be good, but day ole and super is a mighty big challenge.
  • BigWaderBigWader Posts: 623

    Not on an egg - but our cafeteria at work turns out Christmas lunch every year for 300 people out of 2 restaurant ovens.  I asked them how and this is how the do it.

    They do the turkeys in advance and chill them whole right away (whole).  Before reheating they carve and slice into hotel pans and add broth to the bottom 1/4 to 1/2 inch or so - cover tight with foil and reheat in low oven 275-300 until 140'F minimum.  They claim the meat is like a sponge and will keep moisture in that steamy environment.

    No such thing as crispy skin - but the meat is tender and juicy and that's starting from unbrined birds.

    Now if you're doing such a big part of Thanksgiving meal for someone else - I'm guessing their expectations are much lower (I know I wouldn't job out the turkey for my family) so I'm sure they'll find the finished product amazing.


    Large BGE


  • mwraulstmwraulst Posts: 131
    Thanks for all the advice. I wonder if i should just skip the cornstarch, it sounds like there's pretty much no way to keep the skin crisp.
  • jlsmjlsm Posts: 868
    One word of caution: Do NOT put hot food in the refrigerator covered. Let the food cool to room temperature. Putting hot or really warm food in the fridge covered creates a perfect atmosphere for bacteria that does not die while reheating. 
    Owner of a large and a beloved mini in Philadelphia
  • drbbqdrbbq Posts: 1,152
    I keep a quart milk bottle full of water and frozen in the freezer. When the turkey comes out of the oven place this in the cavity. It will help cool the bird quickly and I think this is really important for quality and safety.
    Ray Lampe Dr. BBQ
  • mwraulstmwraulst Posts: 131

    More thanks to you fellow eggheads. Should l let it rest covered, uncovered, or tented before putting in the fridge or does it even matter? Maybe this is silly thinking but does resting it covered help keep the moisture in the meat.

    dr bbq: do you have experience in reheating the whole bird the next day or do you just cool quickly before serving? If you have done this before what do you suggest?

  • drbbqdrbbq Posts: 1,152
    I've done it for photos and TV and it got eaten but I've never tried to really serve it. I don't see any chance that the white meat doesn't end up dry, so I don't think I would do it at all. I know that's harsh but that's my opinion.
    Ray Lampe Dr. BBQ
  • BigWaderBigWader Posts: 623
    jlsm said:
    One word of caution: Do NOT put hot food in the refrigerator covered. Let the food cool to room temperature. Putting hot or really warm food in the fridge covered creates a perfect atmosphere for bacteria that does not die while reheating. 

    We might be thinking the same thing - but let me add a bit more info to this thought.  In food manufacturing plants the change of temperature after cooking is closely monitored to ensure that food quickly chills through the danger zone.  In HACCP plans there is a common cooling chart format used (like this one - 

    The absolute requirement is "

    Foods must be cooled from 135°F to 70°F within 2 hours and from 135°F to 41° F or below within 6 hours.

    If product doesn't follow that cooling curve it must be either recooked above 165 or thrown out.

    In food plants they have blast chillers - but I always felt that once food was getting close to 140 (which is much higher than room temperature) - time to get it in the fridge pronto.

    Like @drbbq said it is important for safety


    Large BGE


  • mwraulstmwraulst Posts: 131

    Thank you all for your comments and help. My medium bge has been running non stop for the past 24hrs hours now. Yesterday was 6 racks of ribs 3 at a time. last night i started a brisket and ran it for 14 hours, pulled at 5am. Put the first turkey on at 5:30, second turkey at 9:30, and just put the last turkey on at 1.

    I believe i'm qualified to answer the what size turkey can fit on a medium. The answer using inverted plate setter with drip pan and turkey on the grate is nothing more than 17lbs. The thermometer must be removed or retracted with any turkey. The 14lb birds fit nicely, at 17 there's little to no breathing room.

    Will let you all know how they turn out. Surprisingly it looks like several competition teams have published information on reheating the whole bird. A team named killer hogs has a nice and simple .pdf on the subject. You can find it by googling "killer hogs reheat turkey" or "how to warm back up a whole smoked turkey".

    Most suggest the immediate refrigeration as stated above. i think you all would actually be surprised how long the turkey remains above 145 after its pulled at 160. For a 14lb, lightly tented, with hdaf bird it remained above 145 for 2 hours. I measured every 10 minutes at the breast and leg. I'd be willing to bet if your cooking anywhere from 325 to 375 you've got a good hour window after pulling it in the safe zone.

    Most of the internet advice also recommended a light spray over the bird with cooking spray or olive oil before reheating. I think i'll attempt and see if i can tell a difference.

    Happy Turkey Day Yall!

  • mwraulstmwraulst Posts: 131

    Huge success with reheating the whole bird the next day. I wish i could have taken the egg with me but it wasn't an option. Sprayed outside of bird with olive oil mist and loosely tented in foil. reheated at 325 for 1.5 hrs 17lb bird. Removed the foil in the last 10 min of reheating. I had strained turkey stock that i made while the turkey was on the egg the day before. I reheated the stock on low while the turkey was reheating. Basted whole turkey twice towards the end of the reheat with the stock and left some in the bottom of the serving dish.

    Pro's: Extremely juicy bird that surprisingly wasn't overly salty. I used oak ridge game changer brine and brined whole turkey for 24hrs. Time: Turkey is only in the oven for 1.5 hrs on Turkey day. Everyone seemed to need the oven so everything worked out well.

    Con's: Less time to smell the cooking bird. Although most couldn't tell and some may have been over served, i could tell it was reheated. Something did crisp the skin up, i'm assuming the olive oil spray or the skin may retain enough fat to recrisp. Removing the foil in the end is probably a must for the skin as well. It still was not as crisp as when served that day.

    Regrets: not throwing more cherry smoke at the bird. I put two fruita cherry chunks on the hot lump before throwing the bird on and couldn't taste it at all. I guess with the higher heat cook i should have considered layering the chunks in the lump and/or increasing the #.  

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