Perhaps the only thing better than eating moist, flavorful turkey on Thanksgiving is enjoying moist and flavorful turkey the day after. Leftovers are as much a part of Thanksgiving tradition as pumpkin pie and parades, however knowing how to re-capture the freshness and textures you experienced the day before is going to require more than a quick zap in the microwave.
Chef Dan Souza of America’s Test Kitchen has some tried and tested advice for reheating your leftover turkey. He says this method will, “help ensure that as much moisture as possible stays in the meat and crisps the skin.”
Start by wrapping the leftover portions in aluminum foil, stacking any sliced pieces, and place them on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer them to a 275°F oven and heat them until the meat registers *130°F, a temperature warm enough for serving but not so hot that it drives off more moisture. (Sliced turkey should be warm throughout; if the slices are relatively thick, insert a temperature probe into the meat.)
This gentle oven temperature also means that the meat comes up to temperature slowly and evenly. Souza says, note that timing will vary greatly based on the shape and size of the leftover turkey pieces. For a crosswise-cut half breast, ATK found 35-45 minutes to be sufficient. However, using a leave in thermometer to monitor the internal temp of the meat as it heats up will remove all doubt and let you know the exact moment your food has come to temperature.
For skin-on leftovers, Souza recommends removing them from the oven and placing them (skin side down) in a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat, heating the skin until it re-crisps.
*The USDA recommends reheating all leftovers to 165°F to sufficiently kill harmful bacteria. Considering the length of time most turkey is left out over the holiday, 130°F won’t effectively kill bacteria that’s accumulated while the meat has sat out. Whole muscle (i.e. intact breast) should be ok at lower temperatures, but meat sliced and left out will be unsafe unless cooked to USDA guidelines.
Souza, D. Cook’s Illustrated. Kitchen Notes: Reheating Leftover Turkey. Nov. & Dec. 2014. (p.31)