Pre-Cook Your Turkey So You Can Enjoy The Holiday TOO!

by Texas Homesteader ~

What if I told you that you could serve that traditional meal at your family holiday gathering including a tender, juicy roasted turkey yet not be shackled to the kitchen jumbling messy greasy turkey-cooking pans instead of enjoying the holiday with your family? 

Yes, it’s true. This has been game-changing in my Homestead kitchen. Check it out!

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 commission. 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!)

Traditional Family Holiday Foods

Aaaaahhhhh the holidays! They’re some 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.

Among other favorites for Thanksgiving there is always

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!

Work Smarter, Not Harder

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 family instead of being cooped in the kitchen trying to prepare for the big feast? And then not be straddled with a large greasy roasting pan afterward?

I decided to give it a go and it’s worked beautifully ever since. Now I always pre-cook the turkey in advance of our traditional family holidays.

Simple Turkey Preparation

My 15-lb turkey was obtained early and thawed in the refrigerator for several days. It’s important to leave yourself enough time to safely thaw your frozen turkey in the refrigerator.

How long does it take to safely thaw a frozen turkey? #TexasHomesteader

After the turkey was thawed I removed the giblets and rinsed the turkey. Then the turkey was allowed to drain for a bit in my roaster pan.

Some people blot the turkey with paper towels to remove excess surface moisture. But as you probably know by now I’ve had a Paperless Kitchen for over a decade.

So this short time air drying accomplishes that for me, paper free.

Finally I rubbed olive oil over the entire turkey, both inside & out. For the seasoning I sprinkled the turkey 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 meat that turned out 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 big 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!

The roasting bag isn’t important. What IS important is cooking your turkey to a safe temperature without overcooking it. The overcooking is what usually dries out the meat.

To make sure my turkey is cooked to perfection but no longer than absolutely necessary, I now use my *Meater Meat Thermometer.

Meater Wireless meat thermometer is truly wireless, and uses bluetooth technology. #TexasHomesteader

I swear cooking in the oven, grill or even my solar oven has been significantly simplified since getting that thermometer!

Heck it allows me to track the progress right from my smart phone. Now that’s SMART! LOL.

Roasting My Turkey

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 a 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 you think the turkey is about done, be sure to 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.

Carving The Turkey

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

When all the meat is carved & layered attractively I top it with more foil & seal the meat tightly. When it’s all sealed up I 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 of leftovers.

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 therefore 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

Tips To Keep Your Turkey Tasting Freshly-Roasted

Some have questioned how I keep that turkey from tasting warmed over. There are several ways to make sure that turkey tastes freshly-roasted on the big day.

I think first & foremost to keeping a pre-cooked turkey tasting freshly roasted is not over-cooking the bird in the first place.

It’s way too easy to overcook a turkey. That meat thermometer is pivotal in getting the correct internal temps without overcooking and drying out your turkey.

Secondly: I add a little broth to the platter of carved meat before sealing it up. That will add moisture when it’s reheated.

Third: – sealing it well with foil before freezing. And getting as much air out as possible to keep freezer-burn away.

And fourth: Heating the thawed meat low, slow & covered so as not to basically cook it again (thereby drying it out as you’re heating it up.)

My pre-roasted, frozen, thawed and warmed turkey has never tasted other than freshly roasted.

Simpler Family Holiday

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

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

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


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Tagged in       A list of our favorite entree recipes. #TexasHomesteader   

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11 thoughts on “Pre-Cook Your Turkey So You Can Enjoy The Holiday TOO!

  1. candace ford

    It’s fun to read about other folks’ holiday traditions. Gone are the days when we would have the BIGGEST turkey we could buy, roast it whole and stuffed – hence dryish white meat – ick. When I still did the entire turkey “thing” I also had to have a large prime rib roast as well. I did eventually stop doing the prime rib and did begin spatch-cocking the bird. The last few years that I “did” a turkey I cut it up. Legs and thighs went in the oven followed later by breast. They were on top of the “stuffing” mix. Gizzards, neck and tail went into a pan on the evening before the big dinner, to simmer overnight for gravy, some of that juice went on the “stuffing” which was then covered until shortly before time to pop it in the oven to warm up. This year the birdman who lives with me and I had stuffed crust pizza for our TG dinner – So much easier and we even had some left overs!!!

  2. Patty

    We’ve done this and love having a more relaxed holiday! The other thing we started doing is spatchcocking the turkey (or whole chickens) so it cooks faster and more evenly. That’s been a game changer for us! We also like to brine whole birds and have fun playing with different brining ingredients. I used to buy the expensive Butterball turkeys, but since we started brining, the cheap turkeys taste even better than the expensive ones. No matter how the meal is prepared, I hope everyone has a very happy healthy Thanksgiving and holiday season this year!

  3. 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!

  4. 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 :}

  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. Kelly

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

  8. 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 🙂

  9. 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.

  10. 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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