Make Ahead Turkey
How to Make Turkey Ahead of Time
Making turkey ahead of time is fun and easy. In fact, the only difference between making turkey you’d eat immediately and making turkey ahead of time is that when you make turkey ahead of time, you store it in some resealable containers and freeze it after it’s done cooking. But making turkey ahead of time is only half the battle – at some point you’ll have to eat the turkey you made ahead of time. When you’re ready to eat it, thaw it in the fridge, then place the bits you want in a baking dish and heat it in the oven.
Crafting the Perfect Meal
Select your turkey.The size of the turkey you need depends on the size of the crowd you’re feeding. If you’re just buying dinner for yourself, you can stick with a small turkey. But if you’re cooking the bird for a family get-together, you’ll need a larger turkey.
- Generally, you’ll need about 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. So if you have 10 guests, you’ll need at least a 15 pound turkey.
- It’s best to err on the side of caution and end up with leftover turkey than to end up with a situation in which some people don’t get any (or don’t get enough).
- If one turkey just won’t do, don’t be afraid to buy two smaller turkeys. After all, when you’re making the turkey ahead of time, you’ll be able to spread out your cooking.
Remove the giblets.Many turkeys come with a bag inside them stuffed with giblets. The giblets is a collective term that refers to the turkey’s heart, gizzard, liver, and neck. Usually, you’ll just discard this bag.
- If you want to create a richer turkey broth, you freeze the giblets in their bag, then toss them into the pan you’ll be cooking the turkey in later.
Prepare your side dish.Make some creamy mashed potatoes, then spoon them into a baking dish. Use a spatula to smooth the top. Let the potatoes cool a bit, then place four or five slices of cold butter over them. Place the whole pan in an extra-large resealable plastic bag and close it. Push as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing it.
- Label the bags with the date you made the potatoes.
- Mashed potatoes will stay good for two months frozen.
- To reheat the potatoes, put the pan – still in the bag – in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to reheat- the mashed potatoes, remove the pan from the bag and cook it in the oven for 25 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (149 degrees Celsius).
Baking the Turkey
Ready the turkey.Place turkey in a shallow roasting pan with the breast up. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (162 degrees Celsius). Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of poultry seasoning and 1 teaspoon of pepper all over the bird. Tuck the wings under the turkey and tie the drumsticks together with a thin string.
Place the pan in the oven.Roast the turkey for half an hour. While the turkey is roasting, mix 3 cups of chicken broth, ½ cup of minced fresh parsley, ¼ cup of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of minced thyme (or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme), 2 teaspoons of grated lemon peel, and 2 minced garlic cloves in a small bowl.
- The best way to ensure you don’t overcook your turkey is to set your watch or timer for 30 minutes after putting the turkey in the oven.
- If you use a pre basted turkey, you don’t need to make the lemon juice mixture.
Remove the turkey from the oven.Slowly pour the mixture over the turkey. Keep the oven on while you do this so that you don’t have to wait to reheat the oven for the turkey’s second round of roasting. While you have the turkey out, place an internal thermometer in the center of the turkey with the prong thrust at least 2 inches deep into it.
Put the turkey back in the oven.Roast the turkey for about 3.25 hours. Every 30 minutes or so, take a spoon and scoop some of the liquid that collects in the bottom of the pan over the turkey. You’ll know the turkey is ready when your internal meat thermometer reads 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius).
- As you did the first time, use a timer or watch to ensure you don’t overcook your turkey.
- If the turkey is browning too quickly, place a layer of foil over it while it cooks.
- You can check the internal meat thermometer toward the end of the cooking time. Just open the oven a bit and take a peek at it. If the thermometer reads less than 180 degrees Fahrenheit, keep the turkey cooking.
Store your turkey for later consumption.Remove the turkey from the oven again. Skim the fat from the juice in the bottom of the pan and discard. Let the turkey cool for about 20 minutes. Then, slice it up into serving-sized bits. Decide when you intend to use your turkey. The way you store your turkey for later use will decide how you store your turkey.
- If you plan on eating the turkey within three days you can just place it in the fridge. In this case, though, wrap portions of the turkey in plastic wrap before putting it in resealable bags or containers. Don’t place broth in the container if you’re simply refrigerating it.
- If you’re eating your turkey in more than three days, allow the turkey to cool a bit more. Spoon the broth that accumulated at the bottom of the cooking pan over the turkey in the containers. Put lids on each container. Place the containers in the freezer. They will stay good for up to three months. Label the containers with the date you cooked the turkey.
- If you have a lot of extra broth, you can jar it and freeze the jars. Fill the jars only 75% of the way before freezing. Place the jars in the fridge overnight to thaw when you’re ready to use it.
Eating Your Turkey
Place the turkey containers in the fridge overnight.If your turkey was frozen, you’ll need to thaw it before you can reheat and eat it. The best way to do this is place it in the fridge.
- For a slightly faster thaw, you could place the turkey container in the sink or on the countertop. Just don’t forget it’s there or it could heat up too much and spoil.
- Don’t let your turkey stand at room temperature for more than one hour.
Put the turkey in the oven.Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius). Place the turkey you want to eat in a baking dish. Cover the dish with foil. Bake for about one hour, or until your instant meat thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius).
- You can check the turkey with an instant cooking thermometer toward the end of the cooking time. Just open the oven a stick the thermometer in the turkey meat. Wait about 20 seconds for the thermometer to get a reading. If the thermometer reads less than 165 degrees Fahrenheit, keep the turkey cooking.
- If you wanted, you could mix up another batch of the garlic and lemon juice baste you used to bake the turkey and spoon some over the turkey before you reheat it.
Prepare a gravy.Take the turkey out. Spoon 1.5 cups of the liquid that collected in the bottom of the pan into a small bowl. Using a wire whisk, mix in 1 tablespoon of melted butter and 1 tablespoon of flour. Pour the mix into a small pot. Bring to a boil and continue stirring for about two minutes. Serve the gravy with the turkey.
- The mixture should yield about 2 cups of gravy.
Video: How to Make a Turkey - Juicy, Delicious Make Ahead Turkey Recipe - Bonus Video!
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