Roast Your Turkey a Day Ahead

You will have a juicy bird without the stress

Turkey brine

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Did you know that you can roast a turkey for Thanksgiving a day ahead of time, carve it, refrigerate it overnight, and then reheat it to juicy perfection on Thanksgiving Day? This wonderful method ensures a moist and flavorful bird and is much easier on the cook. It is especially nice if you aren't very confident in your carving skills and would rather not do it in front of an audience, or if you have a small kitchen with just one oven. This is also a great idea if you have a lot of people coming and want to make sure you have enough turkey—roast one on the big day and have this one waiting in the fridge!

And don't worry, it will still smell like Thanksgiving—when the turkey reheats, delectable aromas will drift through the house just as if the turkey was being roasted. Follow these steps the day before for a less stressful turkey day.


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Roast as Usual

Roast the turkey the way you'd usually do it. (You can even roast the bird unstuffed from the frozen state.) When the interior temperature of the turkey reaches 170 F in the thigh, take it out of the oven and let it rest, covered, for about 30 minutes. Into a container, pour the drippings from the roasting pan including any bits that are stuck to the bottom; save it all to make the gravy tomorrow. You can wash the roasting pan to store the carved turkey or leave as is.

how to roast turkey a day ahead illustration
The Spruce

Carve the Bird

Before you begin, make sure your knife is sharp and that you have a large enough cutting board. First, cut down between one breast and one leg, then pull and twist the leg to pop it out of the joint. Keep cutting until the leg and thigh come free. Then cut the leg away from the thigh. Put the drumstick and pieces of thigh meat into the roasting pan. 

Next, cut the breast away from the bird, then slice it crosswise, keeping some skin on each piece. Place this in the pan. Cut off the wing and add to the pan. Then turn the bird around and carve the other side in the same manner. Check out "How to Carve a Turkey" for step-by-step photos of the process.


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Ready It for the Fridge

You don't want the meat to dry out while it sits overnight, so you will need to cover it with a liquid. Spoon some chicken broth or the drippings from the roasting pan over the turkey so it stays moist. Cover snugly and refrigerate overnight.

Reheating the Next Day

On Thanksgiving day, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let sit to come to room temperature before reheating. Keeping the turkey in the roasting pan just as it is, cover with aluminum foil and reheat in a 350 F oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the turkey is hot and steaming and registers 165 F on your meat thermometer. You can bake it along with the stuffing (drizzle a little turkey broth over the stuffing before you bake it to add some turkey flavor). And don't forget to make the gravy—pour the drippings into a saucepan, add a flour/water mixture, and boil hard, adding salt until the flavor blooms.