Reheat Smoked Turkey: The Ultimate Guide

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A deliciously cooked turkey is a must during the holiday season and on special occasions, and there’s nothing better than bringing family and friends together around the table for food.

However, turkey can be quite the effort to cook, as it takes time and a lot of prep. A lot of people opt for an easier route, which is buying a pre-cooked turkey. That way you just have to take it home, and reheat it! 

Other people will buy an especially big turkey because since they’re going through all that effort, they might as well make enough so that there’s plenty of leftovers to enjoy the following days! 

Whatever it is you do, chances are that if you’re cooking turkey you’re going to have to know how to reheat it properly, whether it’s for the actual turkey, or for the leftovers. If you reheat it too fast, or the wrong way, you risk the turkey becoming dry, and nobody wants that. 

So, how do you reheat it? Well, let’s go over it in detail! 

How to reheat a whole turkey

Let’s start by taking a look at how to reheat a whole turkey. So if you’ve bought a pre-cooked turkey, or you’ve cooked it early to have enough time for other stuff, then this is how you can then reheat it so it’s nice and warm when served. 

The golden rule of reheating turkey is to do so evenly. If the oven is too hot, the exterior will reheat a lot faster and become dry, while the interior is still cold. To do it right, you need patience, focus, and precision.

But don’t worry, we’ll tell you exactly how to go about it so that you get it just right, and your turkey is absolutely perfect! 

To reheat a whole turkey, you will have to use the oven. This is the best way to reheat turkey and most other types of foods. But also, your oven is likely the only place that will fit the entire turkey for reheating! 

Here is everything you need to know about the process:

Before you start

Before you get started on the reheating process, it is highly recommended that you take the whole turkey out of the refrigerator and that you leave it out at room temperature for about an hour.

This is completely safe, as the turkey is already cooked, and not raw. And doing this will help get it to room temperature so that it’s easier to reheat.

After all, if you’re reheating it straight from the refrigerator, it comes from being cold, and it’s a lot easier to accidentally end up with dry turkey! 

You should also prepare the turkey before putting it in the oven for reheating. And by preparing, we mean you should wrap it in some foil. What this does, is it keeps in the moisture while the turkey is reheating.

So not only will the process be slightly faster, but it will also lessen the chances of the turkey becoming dry! 

Selecting the right temperature

Setting the right temperature for the reheating process is key. You don’t want the oven to be too hot, or else the turkey will inevitably dry out, which is something you want to avoid.

It’s best to set the oven at a lower temperature, even though it will take longer. As we mentioned, reheating a whole turkey requires patience! 

The ideal oven temperature for reheating a whole turkey is around 250 degrees.

But if you want to speed up the process as much as possible, while still avoiding ending up with a dry turkey, then we’d say that the highest temperature limit is around 325 degrees. Don’t go any higher than that, or it will come out dry. 

Keeping track of the smoked turkey’s internal temperature

Although you can set a timer (we will talk about the time next), it is very important that you keep track of the progress, so that you can have it ready at just the exact right time, before it starts to become dry. 

To keep track of the progress, you need to keep track of the internal temperature of the turkey, as the inside needs to be reheated just as much as the outside does!

For this, you can use a probe thermometer and take a reading every so often, so that you can monitor the exact temperature it is at. (You won’t have to take the turkey out of the oven to do this!) 

When cooking a turkey, there is a precise internal temperature that you have to aim for, in order to know that it’s properly cooked. But you’re not cooking the turkey this time around, you’re just reheating it! 

So the rule is basically to get the interior hot enough to surpass the danger zone. (The danger zone is a temperature range, set by experts, in which dangerous bacteria are prone to grow and multiply within the meat, which you should avoid at all costs!) 

When reheating the turkey, you should aim for it to reach an internal temperature of around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. (Don’t go over 150 degrees, or it will become dry. So there’s quite a small window in which it is perfect, meaning you have to keep close track of it!) 

Reheating time of smoked turkey

We’ve left the amount of time for reheating last because it can vary according to many different things. And even if you figure out an estimated time, taking all the factors into consideration, you should still prioritize keeping track of the internal temperature of the turkey, above the time. 

However, it’s good to have a rough timeline, so you know how much time you need, give or take, to get the reheating done. Let’s look at some estimates! 

If you’re reheating the turkey at 275 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the recommended oven temperature, the entire process could take between 3 or 4 hours, so you better get started early enough in the day. 

If you’re reheating the turkey at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, then it will take around two and a half hours to be complete. 

Either way, it takes a while, so make sure you take this into account. 

You should also account for 30 extra minutes once the turkey has been reheated, as you should let it rest before serving. This will allow all the turkey juices to evenly distribute and settle so that it’s delicious all over. So basically, don’t cut into the turkey within the first 30 minutes of it coming out of the oven, let it finish off by itself! 

And that’s it, that’s how to preheat a whole turkey! As we said, it takes patience, focus, and precision. It’s all about tracking the progress and letting it run its course! 

Reheating leftover smoked turkey

Okay, so now let’s talk about how to reheat turkey leftovers. Because let’s face it, one of the best things about having turkey on a special occasion is all the turkey sandwiches that you’ll be having the following days, thanks to the leftovers! 

The thing with turkey leftovers is that they are a lot easier to reheat, and as they’ll be cut up in pieces, you can reheat as many or as little as you want! It’s also a way faster process, so don’t worry, you won’t need 3 hours to do it. Plus, there are a few different methods you can use. 

Let’s look at them all! 

In the oven

This is by far the best method for reheating your turkey leftovers and any other food if we’re being honest, as the end result will taste just as good as when it was first cooked. 

The best way is to place your turkey leftovers in foil so that the moisture is kept in, and they don’t become dry during the preheating process.

It is also highly recommended to add a spoonful or two of gravy or chicken stock to the turkey, as they will add a refreshed flavor to the turkey, and they will help the turkey come out nice and juicy! 

And as for the actual specifics of the reheating process, let’s take a look at them: 

  • Temperature:

You have to be careful not to make the oven too hot, or else the turkey will become dry, with the exterior getting reheated while the interior remains cold. The recommended temperature for the oven is around 300 degrees Fahrenheit. 

  • Time:

With turkey, slow and steady wins the race. So even a few pieces of leftovers will take some time. It obviously depends on the temperature of the oven, and you need to keep track of the progress. But on average, reheating turkey leftovers in the oven will take between 30 and 45 minutes. 

  • The internal temperature of the turkey:

Just like with reheating the whole turkey, it’s important that you use a probe thermometer to keep track of the internal temperature of the turkey. You should aim for it to reach around 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check each piece individually! 

On the stovetop

Reheating the leftover turkey on the stovetop is faster than the oven, and the result is nicer than the microwave, so it’s a good in-between method to use.

For this, you can just place the turkey pieces into a skillet, and add some chicken stock to add flavor and juices. Cover it with a lid and leave it to simmer for a few minutes on medium-high heat.

You could add other ingredients or flavoring, but basically, it will take around 5 to 10 minutes to reheat, and then it will be ready to serve! 

In the microwave

Using a microwave is the fastest and easiest way to reheat turkey leftovers, but it won’t be quite as nice as using the oven or the stovetop. The biggest risk with the microwave is the turkey going dry. So here is how to avoid it. 

Start by cutting up the turkey leftovers into smaller pieces, this way it’s easier for them to be reheated evenly all the way through. Place them into a microwave-safe container, and add some chicken stock, butter, or similar. (This will add extra flavor to the turkey, and it will add moisture and juices to it so that it’s not dry at all!) 

Then, cover the container with plastic wrap, to keep that moisture in, and reheat for one minute! 

If it’s not fully reheated, do it for another extra minute, then serve! 

And that’s it! That’s how to reheat turkey leftovers! Just remember to add some chicken stock for that renewed flavor and juices, and it will be as delicious as it was when first cooked! 

Also, we recommend you only reheat the amount that you’re going to eat, as it’s not a good idea to reheat turkey more than once! Doing so will just risk harmful bacteria from growing within it, plus the more you reheat it, the worse it will taste. Pre cooked turkey needs to be handled safely.

Whether you prefer a smoked turkey leg , smoked turkey wings, sliced turkey ( turkey slices ) or turkey breast , leftover turkey or smoked meat can still be delicious. Just use some aluminum foil or baking dish and you can be on your way to enjoying amazing turkey meat again and again. Keep enjoying that turkey leftover. Thanksgiving leftovers don’t need to go to waste. You can continue to enjoy that Thanksgiving turkey with mashed potatoes.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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