6 Ways to Reheat Turkey Without Drying It Out

Turkey leftovers on a cutting board sitting on the kitchen table

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The only better meal in your opinion than Thanksgiving dinner is the leftovers the next day, and then the day after that. As you eat turkey further from Thanksgiving though, it gets drier. I’ll tell you my favorite tricks for reheating turkey and keeping it moist.

What are some ways to reheat turkey without drying it out? Here are some ways to reheat turkey without drying it out:

  • Store turkey properly
  • Cut turkey in uniform slices 
  • Add some chicken stock or gravy
  • Use butter 
  • Wrap in aluminum foil
  • Reheat at lower temperatures

In this guide, I’ll elaborate further on the above methods for moist, succulent turkey that will make your mouth water. I’ll also talk about other reheating methods and how many times the bird should be reheated overall, so keep reading! 


6 Ways to Reheat Turkey and Keep It Moist

Store Turkey Properly

You spent all day in the kitchen. As you finally sit down for the big Thanksgiving feast, you’re grateful but exhausted. 

When the time comes for cleanup, you move all the dirty dishes to the sink or dishwasher, but you don’t tackle the ginormous pile until the morning. You also do the bare minimum to store the turkey. Maybe you stretch plastic wrap on the leftover pieces, but that’s about it.

If your plastic-wrapped turkey on a plate then goes in the fridge, this is about the worst thing for it if you care about maintaining its freshness.

Overnight, your turkey sits in the fridge. The cool air of your refrigerator dries out the barely-covered bird, causing it to develop surface-level dryness that’s almost like a crust.

You can keep your turkey leftovers in the fridge on the night of Thanksgiving, but they need to go in an airtight container instead of being covered in plastic wrap. 

Cut Turkey in Uniform Slices 

You don’t have to debone turkey wings or drumsticks, but for the boneless slices of turkey, it’s worth taking the time to cut each piece into roughly the same size. 

The reason? No, it’s not just for presentation’s sake. 

When the pieces of turkey are all about the same size, they’ll cook evenly. This prevents smaller pieces from drying out because they cook faster. 

Add Some Chicken Stock or Gravy

You wake up the day after Thanksgiving craving turkey. Before reheating it, arrange your portions and then cover the bird in gravy. 

You don’t want to smother the turkey here, as then it will get soggy. The gravy flavor will also permeate through, maybe too much. Instead, a few spoonfuls suffice.

Many people like gravy, but for those who don’t, try chicken stock.

The flavor of the stock is innocuous enough that picky palates will still happily sit down to a meal of leftover turkey. 

Again, you don’t need a lot of chicken stock, only a spoonful or several. 

Use Butter

This isn’t an either-or situation. Butter plays nicely with both gravy and chicken stock, so I suggest combining it with one or the other.

Butter is fat, and together with the moisture from the chicken stock or gravy, it will maintain the turkey’s moisture. 

How? As the turkey is heated in your oven (or elsewhere), the butter and chicken stock lock in the juices so the steam of the oven can’t dry out your bird. 

As you would have probably guessed, less is more here. A pat of butter is fine. If you especially like butter, you can do a bigger pat, but don’t go crazy. 

Wrap in Aluminum Foil

When you pour the gravy or chicken stock and cut off a pat of butter, you shouldn’t put the moistened turkey breast right in the oven. You need to wrap it in a bundle of aluminum foil to seal in all those delicious flavors and juices. 

If you’re out of aluminum foil, you can use a lidded skillet or dish, but ensure they’re oven-safe. 

Reheat at Lower Temperatures

Do you nuke your turkey for a few minutes so you can eat it right away? It’s no wonder the bird comes out drier than the Sahara.

Low and slow wins the race here. Your turkey requires time in the oven cooking at 300 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature ensures you won’t have to wait hours for your leftovers but cooks low enough to retain the meat’s moisture.

How long do you cook the bird? At least 25 to 30 minutes, but at lower temperatures, it can take up to 40 minutes. 

How Many Times Can You Reheat Turkey?

For the whole rest of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and maybe into the next week, you’ll eat turkey leftovers. It’s not only that you don’t want the turkey to go to waste, but you just really love leftovers.

How many times should you reheat the turkey? 

Ideally, only once if you want it to keep its moisture.

I know what you’re thinking, that’s nuts, right? How can you eat leftovers for days if you only reheat the bird once?

Well, because you don’t have to reheat the whole turkey at the same time. 

Instead, follow my recommendations from earlier. On the night of Thanksgiving, cut and store all the turkey in containers, then put the containers in the fridge.

When you want to enjoy some leftovers, let the turkey come to room temp, then reheat only the pieces you’re going to eat.

For all the turkey you don’t eat for lunch or dinner, it should still stay in the fridge in an airtight container. This ensures the turkey’s freshness.

How Long Is Turkey Good in the Fridge?

Speaking of freshness, turkey is only edible for so long when refrigerated.

Make sure that you and your family or friends have a plan of attack to eat the leftovers, as they store for three to four days refrigerated.

Can you maybe wait five days? Yes, but look at and smell the turkey to confirm it hasn’t started to go funky.

If it’s been a week since Thanksgiving or longer, your leftover turkey is no longer considered fresh enough to eat, even if it’s stored in the fridge.  

Can You Freeze Leftover Turkey?

You’re thinking that perhaps you’ll put some of the turkey leftovers in the freezer only because you have so much. Is that a viable option?

Yes, you can freeze leftover turkey. And to get the most out of it, remember that any turkey on the bone should be detached before freezing so the turkey doesn’t hog up as much space in the freezer.

You still want to use airtight containers to stash the turkey. The pieces of turkey should be about evenly sliced too. You should also add a spoonful of chicken stock or gravy, but butter isn’t needed here.

Then shut the freezer door and you can enjoy leftover turkey for up to two months. 

Can You Reheat Turkey in the Microwave? 

If you just need some turkey filling for a sandwich, you don’t have to go through the trouble of preheating the oven, finding a baking tray, and digging out your aluminum foil. 

You can reheat and cook your turkey in the microwave.

That said, you will have to follow a couple of steps if you want delectably fresh-tasting, deliciously moist turkey.

Cut the turkey down into even smaller slices than you would when reheating in the oven. Each piece should be bite-sized. Then drizzle the turkey bits with chicken broth or gravy. 

Cover the turkey with a paper towel, but never aluminum foil! If you put aluminum foil in the microwave, it could start a fire. 

That said, when you’re heating up a bunch of plates for extended family and their children, I recommend you checking out my article titled: Best Microwave-Safe Plates for the Holidays.

How Do You Reheat a Smoked Turkey Without Drying It Out?

Smoked turkey undergoes smoke flavoring and curing to develop tasty, woodsy notes in each bite. Smoking the bird is a great way to transform its depth of flavor and give everyone something new to look forward to this Thanksgiving.

Since smoking already dries out turkey to a degree, you don’t want to make it any dryer by microwaving or oven-cooking the bird without taking the proper precautions. 

How do you reheat smoked turkey?

Similar tips as I’ve discussed throughout this guide apply. 

  • You should cut the smoked turkey into manageable slices or pieces. Allow the bird to rest to room temperature if it’s coming from the fridge or freezer.
  • Use a liquid for moisture. Water is okay if you want to keep the smoked turkey flavor pure, but gravy works as well. 
  • You need more liquid than you do when reheating un-smoked turkey, between three and four spoonfuls. 
  • Use aluminum foil on the turkey and then cook it in the oven for at least 40 minutes. 

Thank you for sharing!

Catherine Cruzz

I first fell in love with all things kitchen when I was growing up and working alongside my father in Florida at our family's appliance service and installation company. Many years later, and thousands of miles away from family I was enjoying a wonderful experience at a culinary school in Pennsylvania. That’s when I realized that along with my passion for holidays and cooking, I was still just as interested in the appliances, kitchenware, and cookware that I grew up around.

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