Pre-Cook Your Holiday Turkey!

by Texas Homesteader ~
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Aaaaahhhhh the holidays! It’s one of my favorite times. The friends & family, the food, the fun! 

It’s wonderful to gather together around a festive table and enjoy the delights of the season.  There are homemade casseroles, side dishes, dressing, gravy and of course my favorite – roasted turkey.

But here’s the deal: I hate to spend my holidays shackled to the kitchen. There’s all the cooking as well as the massive cleaning required when roasting a turkey.

You may ask “But is there a better way to prepare?

Well I’m here to tell ya “Why yes there is!

Instead of being stuck in the kitchen roasting a holiday turkey and wrestling greasy pans, see how I significantly simplify the holidays! #TexasHomesteader

(Note: Some links in this post are for further information from earlier posts I’ve written. But links preceded with * are affiliate links. If you click them and buy something (almost anything, not just the item noted) I could receive a small purchase. But the price you pay will NOT change. It’s an easy way to support this blog without anything coming out of your pocket. So click often! Thank you!)

Several years ago I stumbled upon the idea that you could prepare your turkey in advance. I wondered if it really would work.

I mean, wouldn’t it be great if I could actually enjoy the holiday with my guests instead of being cooped in the kitchen trying to prepare for the big feast? And not be straddled with greasy dishes afterward?

Hummm…. I decided to give it a go and it’s worked beautifully. So this year I decided to give it a go again.

Simple Turkey Preparation

My 15-lb turkey was obtained early and thawed in the refrigerator for several days. After the turkey thawed I removed the giblets and rinsed the turkey.

Then the turkey was allowed to drip/drain for a bit in my turkey roaster pan. Finally I rubbed olive oil over the entire turkey, inside & out, sprinkled it with a mixture of:

2 Tablespoons garlic powder – 2 teaspoons dried basil, 1 teaspoon each of dried sage & salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and often finish up with just a light dusting of paprika.

Sometimes I place onions or celery in the turkey cavity. But more times than not I don’t bother with that step and my turkey always turns out delicious. Who knew roasting a turkey could be so uncomplicated?

No More Turkey-Roasting Bags

In past years when I was preparing to roast a turkey I always purchased a roasting bag. I thought that was the only way to avoid a turkey with white meat so dry you needed boatloads of gravy just to choke it down.

But one year I found myself without a roasting bag. Not wanting to make a trek into town right before the holiday to buy one, I was delighted to find out that a roasting bag wasn’t really needed for a delightfully-roasted turkey that was both moist & delicious.

Well ok then, buh-bye turkey bags!

Roasting My Turkey

Here’s what I do: After the turkey is rinsed, drained, oiled & seasoned I place the turkey breast-side up in my *turkey roasting rack. I usually wrap a bit of foil around the end of the legs since they oftentimes cook a little faster.

Then I tent foil over the entire bird and place the pan in a 350-degree oven for 2 hours.

Instead of being stuck in the kitchen roasting a holiday turkey and wrestling greasy pans, see how I significantly simplify the holidays! #TexasHomesteader

During my roasting time I don’t baste the turkey since I don’t want to keep opening the oven door. Keeping that door closed helps maintain even roasting temperatures.

Roast Turkey to 165 Degrees

After it’s roasted for 2 hrs I remove the foil tent and increase the oven temp to 425 degrees for about 30-40 minutes longer, or until a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh (not touching the bone) reaches a temperature of 165 degrees.

Some say 170 degrees is better. But I’ve found the temps continue to rise a bit after the turkey is removed from the oven.

Food Safety Is Important!

By the way, I’ve found those little pop-up thingies often placed in the turkey are oftentimes not an accurate gauge for the internal cooked temps. So I don’t rely on them.

(The general rule of thumb for roasting turkey is about 15 minutes per lb based on a 325-degree oven & fully thawed bird, but of course since my roasting temps are different I just use a meat thermometer to test the turkey’s internal cooked temperature.)

When I think the turkey is about done I test the internal temps using a meat thermometer.

By roasting to the correct temperature you can assure a moist turkey that’s safely cooked yet not overcooked and dry. Food safety is important!

When the turkey is cooked to a delicious 165-degree golden brown I remove it from the oven.  It’s important to allow the bird to rest for 15 to 20 minutes BEFORE carving. This step helps keep those juices inside the turkey meat where they belong.

After the turkey has rested I’ll take out a large broiling pan and line it with foil. I carve the turkey and layer the meat attractively on the foil.

When all the meat is carved & layered I seal the meat tightly in more foil and place the entire pan in the freezer.

Of course I keep the turkey bones and simmer them into healthy homemade turkey broth so nothing on this bird is wasted.

But again, that’s all done BEFORE the holiday! No more cramming a turkey carcass in an already-crammed fridge.

Instead of being stuck in the kitchen roasting a holiday turkey and wrestling greasy pans, see how I significantly simplify the holidays! #TexasHomesteaderThawing Cooked Turkey

Now a couple of days before the holiday I simply pull the cooked turkey out of the freezer and allow it to thaw slowly in the fridge. That way on the big day I just pop the pre-cooked and pre-sliced turkey into the oven set to about 200 degrees and allow it to slowly warm. 

(you can bump the temps up a bit if you’re in a hurry. Just make sure you don’t bump them high enough to basically re-cook and dry out your turkey)

Since all our holiday guests are bringing their own specialty side dishes & desserts all that’s left to do is transfer the turkey to a pretty platter & serve along with all the other deliciousness!

We PRE-cook, carve & freeze our turkey. Then we'll thaw it before the big day. We can enjoy the holiday along with our guests, not be shackled to the kitchen cooking or cleaning a huge, greasy mess. #TexasHomesteader

Gone are the days of hovering in the kitchen on that special day roasting & carving a holiday turkey. 

And gone as well is wrestling those greasy cooking pans while all my guests are visiting with each other.

I can join in on the fun now! Give it a try.


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12 thoughts on “Pre-Cook Your Holiday Turkey!

  1. Helen at the Lazy Gastronome

    I couldn’t do this. I would miss the smell permeating the house on Thanksgiving. What is the Macy’s parade with out the smell of roasting turkey? But maybe for Christmas I could! Thanks for sharing on the What’s for Dinner Link up!

  2. Laura Lane

    This is similar to what my mom used to do. Thanks for the reminder.
    Please drop by and say hello!
    Harvest Lane Cottage
    …doing what I can with what I’ve got where I am
    on a short shoestring budget!

  3. ColleenB.~Texas

    No Christmas cooking for me this year as we’re invited out. With 46 years of marriage, this is the first time that I won’t be spending my time in the kitchen :}
    Wishing you and your family along with everyone else here a Very Merry Christmas
    (will be dealing with roofers starting today.) With all the hammering that will be going on it’s a good thing I have good supply of Advil :}

  4. Elaine

    What a great idea! Might try it for Christmas! Thanks for sharing on My 2 Favorite Things on Thursday! Hope to see you again this week! Pinned!

  5. geni

    How long does it take to warm your precooked bird. I ususally do a 20 lb. turkey and am curious about this idea. Thanks.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      My bird was smaller than 20 lbs geni, but as long as your previously-frozen, cooked, sliced turkey is completely thawed in the refrigerator, your dish is tightly covered in foil and you warm it slowly your turkey should stay moist. When I froze mine I ladled some of the juices into the foil-lined pan to give it a little extra moisture while reheating too. I’m guessing for your cooked 20-lb turkey that warming around 45 minutes at 200 – 250 degrees might do the trick? Can anyone out there offer any estimated warming time for geni? ~TxH~

  6. Terri Presser

    What a great idea. We aren’t that keen on turkey, but we pre-smoked our pork the day before and the beef overnight so all we had to do was slice it just before everyone arrived. Everything went so much smoother to be able to just put it out ready to go. Thanks for sharing this at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

  7. Kimberly

    This is fabulous! I love it. Pinned and tweeted. Thanks for being a part of our party! I hope you stop by on Monday at 7 pm. We love to party with you. Merry Christmas! Lou Lou Girls

  8. Kelly

    Great instructions. I am pinning this to come back to next week! Thanks!

  9. Taryn Shelford

    I totally agree with you. The holidays are meant to be spent with family and friends, not cooking in the kitchen, but I look forward to the good food along with the good company, so I do a lot of prep the day before. I cook the turkey the day before as well as sweet potatoes for a casserole. I prepare bread cubes for stuffing; leaving the cubed bread on the counter overnight adds to the dryness. Celery and onions get chopped and stored in the frig in an airtight container. Eggs are boiled and peeled for deviled eggs.

    One day Mom and I were looking through all of her 60 years worth of family photos and the comment was made that most of our happiest memories center around the kitchen table 🙂

  10. CTY

    I did this one year and was looking forward to some extra time. And them a good friend called & said her oven broke–could she cook at my house? We lived only a few miles away–doable, but it would be very hectic. So, I gave her my precooked and she warmed it in her toaster oven. And she gave me her raw turkey that I cooked. So much for my easy breezy day. These days our daughter-in-law does the main cooking/hosting.

  11. ColleenB.

    Been there and have done that and makes day of family gathering so much easier; before, during and after and able to enjoy that extra glass of wine with your guests. :}
    I do put my sliced meat in a roasting pan and add a little chicken stock in the pan just to keep the meat nice and moist and cover tightly with heavy duty foil.
    My mashed potatoes I even do a day or 2 ahead of time. After you boil, drain and mash your potatoes (around 5 lbs.) In a large bowl, mix mashed potatoes, with 2 – (3 oz.) cream cheese, 8 oz.sour cream, 1/2 c. milk, onion salt, and pepper. Transfer to a large casserole dish.
    Cover, and bake for 50 minutes in the preheated 325 deg.oven.


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