Make-Ahead Turkey? Oh yes, indeed!
There are people who wake up in the middle of the night to begin cooking their turkey for a holiday meal. There are people who baste and stuff and rub down their bird. These people are so very nice and dedicated to poultry perfection.
And then there’s me.
That is one huge bird.
Read the whole tale here.
I cannot find it within myself to do any of this to my turkey. I’m just not as devoted of a holiday baker as some. I’m a plop the bird in a pan, add nothing to it, cover it, put it in the oven, and take it out a few hours later kind of girl.
And…my favorite turkey baking tip of all: I cook my bird before the holiday. Like, two days before, usually.
I bake it, de-bone it, prepare all the broth, dispose of the carcass – basically I do all the messy, tedious, laborious turkey work ahead of time. Then on the day of the holiday feast, I take out my big dish of cooked meat, pour on a little broth, cover it, rewarm it, and we eat it. This is stress-free turkey baking.
My turkey always still tastes delicious.
That’s why I keep doing it this way.
No, our table doesn’t hold a big un-carved turkey. There is no turkey carving tradition at our house. For those who love traditions like this, I say go for it! Baste and carve and enjoy that special tradition.
But for those who find the turkey to be tedious, you might instead consider making it ahead of time.
But won’t the meat be dry?
Not if you don’t over-bake it in the first place.
The trick is to drizzle broth over your cooked, de-boned meat (I’d say one-two cups of broth per 9×13 inch dish full of meat), then cover the dish well. I warm it on Thanksgiving day for 30-45 minutes in a 300-350° oven along with other dishes that are baking. I pull it out and have a steaming, moist, delicious pan of turkey.
- 1 Turkey
- 1 Large Roasting Pan
- Foil if necessary
- Place the turkey in the refrigerator for 3-4 days until thawed.
- Remove the bag of giblets from the inside of the turkey.
- Empty the giblets into your roasting pan as they help make a good, rich broth.
- Place the bird, breast side up, into a large baking pan or roaster.
- Cover with foil or with your roaster lid.
- Cook at 325° for 15-20 minutes per pound.
- You know your turkey is done cooking when the red thing pops up, or when the legs start to pull away from the body. It should be golden brown and slightly crisp looking.
- Be sure to save the broth that formed naturally!
- Allow the turkey to cool, then de-bone completely. Store meat in baggies or in covered pyrex dishes in the refrigerator.
- Save turkey carcass to make another round of broth for gravy, soup, and other nourishing meals.
- On serving day, drizzle a liberal amount of broth (one-two cups per 9x13 inch pan of meat) over turkey, cover and warm in 300°-350° oven for 30-45 minutes or until meat is hot and steamy.
- Serve right away.
Additional Turkey Tips:
- Adding a few onions to the turkey while baking is an effortless way to add more flavor.
- Be sure to save the broth that forms naturally while your bird bakes.
- Do not wait until your turkey is cold to take the meat off the bones. This makes the job much harder!
- After you’ve taken all the meat off the bones, save the bones and put them into a stock pot. Fill the pot with water, carrots, onions, and any other veggies you like. Salt liberally. Cook on low for 4-6 hours to create a wonderful broth. Strain out bones. Blend the veggies until smooth and stir them back into the broth for added richness.
- Use turkey broth for gravy. Use it to make Turkey and Noodles a few days after Thanksgiving. Use it for any soup or recipe that calls for chicken broth.
- While making your turkey ahead of time is wonderfully helpful in cutting down work on your holiday meal serving day, you don’t want to make it too far in advance! I recommend making it on Tuesday or Wednesday, then serving it on Thanksgiving Thursday.
What’s your turkey tradition? To carve, or not to carve? To baste, or not to baste? Ever made a turkey ahead of time?
Here are the quick links to all the recipes we covered in this series:
- Make-Ahead Turkey
- Stuffing Muffins
- Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
- Oh Good Gravy
- Green Bean Casserole
- How to Make Frozen Pies
- Simple Whipped Sweet Potatoes
- How to make Whipped Cream
- Whole Wheat Stir-and-Pour Dinner Rolls
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