Whether it’s a Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner or any other special occasion, cooking a turkey is a classic option you can’t go wrong with. You can cook a turkey using many different cooking methods to get a perfectly cooked meal ready to be served to your guest.
However, like many gatherings, there could be a delay in getting all the guests seated on time. So, how do you keep the turkey warm and moist after cooking if you can’t serve it straight away? Surely you don’t want to overcook your bird or serve your guests cold and dry food.
That’s why I have compiled some quite effective tips and tricks that will help you keep the turkey warm and moist after cooking. You can use any of the following methods depending on your unique needs. (These will also work to keep your chicken warm).
How To Keep Turkey Warm And Moist After Cooking: Best Methods
Waking up on Thanksgiving morning to cook turkey for your family and guests can be a hectic experience. Not only do you need to get the timing right with all the dishes but you also need to have a backup plan for the turkey meat remains hot and juicy until it’s served. Not only will it offer the best taste, but it’s also important to ensure food safety.
This first ‘keep-warm’ method is also the best if you need to transport your turkey after cooking.
Important: keep in mind that the first method only works safely for two hours.
1. Cover Entire Turkey
Covering your entire turkey is one of the most effective ways to keep it from drying out and going cold. You can use the following steps to complete this process.
- Cook the bird until it is golden brown and the internal temperature of its dark meat is 180°F (82°C), and white meat is 170°F (77°C). Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature. For a medium-sized turkey, you are looking at about 3 and a half hours of cooking time in the oven.
- Once thoroughly cooked, remove it from the oven and let the entire bird rest for at least five minutes. It’ll allow the juices to redistribute evenly.
- Now, if your guests are eagerly waiting around the table, you can carve it and serve it.
- But if not, cover the whole bird using aluminum foil. Use at least two layers of foil, and make sure that you airtight it fully.
- After that, wrap the entire thing using a kitchen towel. It’ll increase the insulation value to keep the heat trapped as long as possible.
- When transporting your turkey, keep it on the roasting pan or oven tray to prevent juices from leaking out and ruing your car seat.
I recommend you use this method if you’re planning to serve the meal after 30 minutes to 2 hours of cooking it. You can also use this method for your other types of cooked meat, along with turkey, if you have enough oven space.
2. Keep It In The Oven
Using your oven will suit you best if your turkey is done 2-3 hours before the time of serving. The following steps will help you use this method effectively.
- Once fully cooked, cover the turkey in aluminum foil.
- Set the temperature of your oven between 200 and 225°F (93 and 107°C).
- Place the wrapped bird back in the oven till you can serve it.
The only downside of this method is that your turkey meat will start to dry after about one hour. In order to solve this problem, you can place a pan filled with water in your oven under the turkey. It’ll create steam inside the oven to keep the meat moist for up to two hours.
If you need to keep the meat hot and juicy for up to four hours, I recommend you use the following method.
- Place your turkey inside a big and deep roasting pan.
- Pour all the pan juices along with 2-3 cups of additional chicken broth into the pan. You can use bouillon cubes to make some. The bottom of the roasting pan should be filled about one to one and a half inches.
- Cover the pan as airtight as you can using aluminum foil.
- Set your oven to 200 to 225°F (93 to 107°C). If your oven is still hot from cooking, let it cool down a bit.
- Place the covered pan with turkey back inside the oven till you get a chance to serve it.
3. Place It In A Crockpot (Slow Cooker)
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Slow cookers are the most forgiving when it comes to longer cooking time. So, this is a great way to drag out your cooking time and keep the food warm for a long time.
Using a large enough size crockpot will also allow you to keep your turkey meat hot for up to three to four hours before the meat starts to get a bit tough. You can use this method whether you cook the turkey in the slow cooker or in the oven.
Follow the steps listed below for this method.
- Remove your cooked turkey from the oven and place it in a slow cooker, and pour all roasting pan juices on it.
- If there is not enough liquid, add one cup of broth or salt water to the crockpot and close the lid.
- Cover the bird with that aluminum foil if it is too large to place the lid on.
- Select the low-temperature setting and let it sit for up to two hours.
- After that, select the keep warm setting to keep your meat warm and moist for three to four hours.
If you cook the turkey in the slow cooker from the start, just make sure there is enough liquid in the crockpot and then keep cooking for another two hours on low or switch to a warm setting till ready to be served.
4. Use Chafing Dish
If you have carved your turkey and it’s ready to serve, but your guests still haven’t arrived, consider using a chafing dish. These chafing dishes are either electric or have gas burners, and they work kind of like a crackpot.
Please keep in mind that as long as the temperature of the turkey in the chafing dish stays above 145°F (63°C), it is safe to stray there for several hours. However, if kept longer than four hours, it inevitably begins to lose freshness and start to dry out.
5. Add Hot Gravy
Another way to make sure your turkey meat is hot and moist while serving is to use a hot gravy. You don’t need to do anything once your turkey is cooked. Instead, you’ll need to prepare hot gravy to pour on top of carved turkey slices.
But you’ll need to make sure that you don’t let the meat sit at room temperature for too long. According to USDA , cooked meat will enter the danger zone if you keep it at room temperature, which is between 40 to 145°F (4 to 63°C), for two hours. After two hours, you need to put it promptly in the fridge or a freezer to keep it safe.
To make the gravy:
- Add three to four tablespoons of butter to a saucepan and heat it over a stovetop until it melts.
- Pour roasting pan drippings into the saucepan and stir the mixture well.
- Add half a teaspoon of ground thyme and two tablespoons of flour to the mixture.
- Keep stirring and let it cook for three to five minutes.
- Add two cups of chicken broth to the mixture.
- Select the low-temperature setting and start stirring until the gravy thickens.
- Add salt, pepper, and parsley if you want, and remove the saucepan from the stove.
- Pour the gravy over the turkey slices and place them inside a very hot oven, about 425 to 450°F (218 to 232°C).
- Heat it for five to eight minutes and serve immediately.
6. Spatchcock Turkey
Spatchcocking (also known as butterflying) refers to the technique of cooking turkey by removing its backbone and then flattening the turkey.
This cooking method is not to drag out the cooing time but rather to speed it up while keeping the meat as moist as possible. Spatchcocking speeds up the roasting time for a medium-sized turkey from three and a half hours to around just one hour.
It ensures faster and more even cooking and creates juicier meat and crispier skin. In addition, it’ll allow you to avoid overcooking the breast meat until the dark meat becomes tender.
To learn more about how to spatchcock a turkey (or a chicken) check out: Spatchcock Turkey Cooking Time Per Pound.
Turkey is one of the most popular food options that people use to make a delicious holiday meal. It offers the best taste and texture when it’s hot and juicy straight out of the oven. But don’t worry if you can’t serve it straight away. Using any of the tips above will help to keep the turkey warm and moist after cooking till it is ready to be served.