Because leftovers don't have to be dry.

By Patricia S York
November 06, 2020
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Credit: Photographer: Antonis Achilleos, Prop Stylist: Kay Clarke Food Stylist: Rishon Hanners

What is the best part of the holiday feast? Is it having all of your favorite side dishes spread out on one table or the fabulous pecan pies and other fall desserts? Maybe it's the succulent turkey, crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. They all sound pretty wonderful. But if you properly store leftover turkey and casseroles, then your enjoyment of the holiday meal doesn’t have to end once the feast is over. That's right, leftovers.

That brings up an important question: What is the best way to reheat turkey and how do you keep it from becoming too dry? After all that work roasting or frying a juicy turkey, the last thing you want to do is ruin the chance of having moist and delicious leftovers. If you plan to use leftover turkey for making sandwiches or a turkey salad, then using cold turkey is the way to go. If you want to warm it up, follow one of these methods–but first, let’s recap how to store leftover turkey.

How to Safely Store Leftover Turkey

Before even thinking about reheating, make sure you have properly stored all the leftovers. Turkey will last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator and 2 to 3 months in the freezer. Whether you plan to freeze the meat or refrigerate it for tomorrow’s meal, go ahead and carve the meat off the bone before storing it away. (As for the carcass, save that for whipping up homemade turkey stock.) If you plan to make turkey tetrazzini or sandwiches, now is a good time to either slice or shred the meat; it will save you some time down the road. If freezing, carefully label each freezer bag with the amount of turkey and the date before storing away in the freezer. If refrigerating, make sure leftover turkey is tightly covered with plastic wrap (or use plastic bags) to keep it from drying out.

Reheat Turkey in the Oven 

Looking for that fresh-out-of-the-oven flavor and texture? Reheat your turkey in the oven. Regardless of whether your leftovers are sliced or shredded, place the turkey in a baking dish, add some stock or gravy to help create moisture, cover with a lid or aluminum foil, and warm in a low and slow oven. Be sure to give the turkey plenty of time to warm up without drying out. 

Reheat Turkey on the Stove

If you just want to reheat a small amount of turkey without heating up the oven, the stovetop is an option. For this method, place the turkey pieces in a pan or skillet and add about ½ inch of stock. Simmer the turkey over medium-high heat for a few minutes until it's thoroughly warmed. This method is faster than using the oven, but you will need to keep watch on the skillet to make sure the stock doesn’t cook out and the turkey dry out.

WATCH: How to Carve a Turkey

Reheat Turkey in the Microwave

In a big hurry for another taste of the Thanksgiving bird? Your microwave can do the trick, but you should be extra careful or you will overcook the meat in the blink of an eye. Place your turkey in a microwave safe plate or bowl, pour some stock, broth, or gravy over the meat, cover with a microwave safe lid or plate cover, and then microwave on medium power for 30 second intervals until the turkey is steaming and warmed thoroughly. (Keep in mind that some microwaves are more powerful than others so cooking times will vary.)