If you celebrate Thanksgiving and struggle with leftover smoked turkey every year, this article is for you. I remember the first time I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner, and it was just a few people and a 19 pound turkey that I brined and smoked and roasted for over 6 hours.
What was the result, you ask? Tons of smoked turkey leftover that I had to eat for the next two weeks. And, I would have hated the same flavor and taste had I not known how to reheat it without making it dry.
It is the most common issue people face with reheating. The meat becomes dry, and the once flavorful piece of turkey starts tasting like cardboard.
If you don’t want that and have been looking for someone to guide you on how to reheat a smoked turkey, let me help you through it.
How Can One Reheat a Whole Smoked Turkey?
Cooking a whole turkey is no joke. I have seen several families buying a smoked turkey beforehand and reheating it later on the day of Thanksgiving.
As genius as this idea is, several things could go wrong if the reheating isn’t done correctly. You need to be patient, careful, and very accurate with the process to ensure that the turkey is juicy and flavorful in the end.
Here are some of the few key points you need to pay attention to.
If you have a whole smoked turkey stacked away inside your fridge, you need to bring it out of the refrigerator and rest the bird for 1-2 hours to get it back to the room temperature.
Once the turkey regains the room temperature, cover the entire bird with some aluminum foil, ensuring that you seal in every nook and corner.
2. Temperature Settings
The key factor in reheating a turkey the right way is to pay attention to the temperature. Using a low-temperature setting is key. It ensures that the entire bird is heated instead of just the exterior of the meat.
Start the oven temperature at 250 degrees Fahrenheit if you want the best results and if you have time to spare. If not, 325 degrees Fahrenheit works just fine.
Place the foil-covered turkey on a baking sheet and put it inside the oven. The foil secures the moisture in the turkey and distributes the heat evenly, ensuring even reheating.
3. Internal Temperature
Not just the oven’s temperature, you need to pay close attention to the internal temperature of the smoked turkey as well.
Since the bird is already cooked, reheating it for a prolonged time will dry out the meat and make it less flavorful.
Using a probe thermometer is ideal in this condition. You can pierce the bird with the thermometer to gauge the temperature rise, or you can open the oven after a few intervals and check the internal temperature of the bird.
The ideal internal temperature for a raw turkey is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. But, that is not the case with the already smoked bird. For these, you need to ensure that the temperature doesn’t cross 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the ideal internal temperature when you are reheating an already cooked turkey.
Another factor that plays a crucial role in the reheating process is time. The time will vary depending on how big the bird is and the temperature you are reheating it in.
If your oven is at 250-275 degrees Fahrenheit, the bird will take 3-4 hours to reheat properly, even from the inside. Alternatively, it takes around 2 hours if you are reheating it at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whatever the time be, ensure to leave the turkey inside the oven for 30-40 minutes to rest after the reheating is over.
How to Reheat Leftover Smoked Turkey?
Reheating leftover turkey is pretty simple and less time consuming than an actual bird.
If you have leftovers, make sure you remove the bird’s meat from the carcass before you freeze them.
For reheating, make sure you transfer the container with the leftovers from the freezer to the fridge and leave it there for a few hours before you stick it inside the microwave.
Unlike reheating an entire smoked turkey, you don’t need an oven to reheat a single portion of the leftovers.
Here are a few steps you can follow:
- Grease the leftover smoked turkey with some butter and sprinkle some spices and seasonings to bring out the flavor better.
- Cover the lid of the container with aluminum foil to ensure even heat distribution.
- Reheat the leftovers till the internal temperature reaches 140-150 degrees as in the case for the whole smoked turkey.
- Once the reheating is done, you can use the leftovers as a filling or eat it with a side of mash and cranberry sauce
What to Do with Reheated Leftover Turkey?
There is a lot you can do with leftover turkey. Since they have a mild and smoky flavor, it becomes easier for you to use them as a filling or a topping for your salads.
Here are a few recipe ideas you can try out:
1. Leftover Turkey Sandwich
It is the healthiest and the most delicious recipe that you can eat for your breakfast, lunch, or even dinner.
- All you need to do is mix the leftover turkey with some seasonings, mayonnaise or sour cream, and black pepper.
- Stuff the filling inside the bread of your choice and then toast them over a skillet till the outer layer becomes brown and crispy.
2. Leftover Turkey Burrito
It makes for a good and heavy lunch idea. It is filling, nutritious, and has a good blend of protein, vegetables, and beans that keep you satiated for long.
- Start by heating up a burrito on a skillet.
- To that, add the reheated leftover smoked turkey and add toppings of your choice like salsa, guacamole, cheese, beans, and lettuce.
- Wrap up the burrito and reheat in the oven or microwave till the cheese melts inside.
3. Leftover Turkey Buddha Bowls
Buddha Bowls are the current food trend. Apart from the mix of vibrant colors, it is highly nutritious and tastes just as good.
- For this, you need to start with a base of rice of green leafy vegetables, as per your preference.
- To add to the top, add an assortment of finely chopped vegetables like carrots, peppers, olives, and cucumber.
- Add the reheated turkey and drizzle some creamy ranch dressing on top to bring all the flavors together.
These are some of the few quick yet delicious recipes you can make to use up your reheated leftover smoked turkey.
Before wrapping up the article, I thought I’d answer some of the most commonly asked questions about reheating a smoked turkey. So, here you go.
Is It Safe to Freeze Smoked Turkey?
Most of the smoked turkey you find in the supermarkets either come frozen or need to be frozen once you reach home. So, yes, it is safe; instead, it is required for you to freeze your smoked turkey if you aren’t going to eat it right away.
How Should I Thaw My Frozen Smoked Turkey?
It would help if you thawed your frozen turkey before you reheat it.
- You can transfer the frozen bird from the freezer to the fridge and leave it overnight.
- Another method that works is by keeping it overnight in the sink. For this, you need to use a large ziplock bag and put the turkey inside it. Once it’s covered, you can fill up a sink with some cold water and dunk the turkey in it overnight and reheat it the next morning.
Does Smoked Turkey Last Long?
A smoked turkey will last for 2-3 days if left in the fridge. In case you plan on freezing it, the smoked turkey will easily last for 3-4 months.
There you have it. This guide walks you through every last detail that you need to know about reheating smoked turkey. Make sure you follow through with the steps, as mentioned, if you are doing it for the first time. If you were panicking all along thinking how challenging the process will be, you could now take a sigh of relief. I hope this makes your Thanksgiving easier yet delectable and fun.