How to Reheat Turkey So It Stays Moist Every Time

Don't settle for dry, day-old turkey. Keep it moist as you warm it up in the oven, on the stovetop, in the microwave, or even in the Instant Pot.

Published October 25, 2023
platter of sliced, roasted turkey

Whether you're dealing with holiday leftovers or want to make your turkey ahead of a big family meal, knowing how to reheat turkey without drying it out is one of those life skills that gives you bonus adulting points. We've got your best strategy covered for turkey breasts, leftover dark meat, or even the whole (carved) bird.

How to Reheat a Whole (Carved) Turkey

If you cooked your turkey the day before you need it or you had to wait before serving it for some other reason, it's best to carve the turkey before you reheat it. This is because you can't heat that much meat evenly without drying it out. Nicely carved, though, you're all set.

You'll need two shallow pans (like lasagna pans), your carved turkey, three to four cups of chicken or turkey stock, half a stick of butter, and aluminum foil. 

  1. Preheat your oven to 300°F. As with many things, low and slow is best here.
  2. Melt the butter and mix it with the broth.
  3. Divide the broth and butter mixture between the two pans.
  4. Arrange the carved turkey in both pans.
  5. Tightly cover the turkey and pans with foil. The ideas here is to keep the steam in.
  6. Heat it until the turkey is 165°F internally. The time depends on how much turkey you have, but it's usually around 20-30 minutes.
Quick Tip

All carving is not created equal when it comes to reheating a turkey. Try to cut the pieces into a uniform size so they all heat evenly.

How to Reheat Turkey Breast or White Meat

Sometimes, you don't need to reheat the entire turkey — just the turkey breast or white meat. In this case, you can go with the same process as above, just on a smaller scale.

  1. Evenly slice the turkey breast and arrange it in a thin layer in an oven-safe casserole dish instead of a big pan.
  2. Pour about ½ an inch of broth into the bottom of the pan.
  3. Because white meat can dry out, it's good to add slices of butter to the top.
  4. Tightly cover the pan. If you use its lid, make sure you add aluminum foil, too. You don't want any moisture getting out.
  5. Heat the turkey in a 300°F oven for about 20 minutes, until it's 165°F.
Quick Tip

The amount of turkey you're warming up isn't really important. It's about making sure it is evenly arranged in the pan. Whether you're heating up enough for one or feeding the whole family, try to keep the size of the pieces uniform and the depth in the pan the same all the way across.

How to Warm Up Dark Meat

Dark meat from turkey legs or thighs is great reheated, especially since this type of meat tends to retain moisture well. The key here is keeping it on the bone if possible — don't worry about thin slices, but do try to keep the pieces around the same size.

  1. Place the pieces in a baking dish or casserole.
  2. Pour in chicken or turkey broth to a depth of at least ½ inch. Add butter if you wish.
  3. Cover tightly and bake in a 300°F oven until the meat is 165°F.

How to Reheat Turkey Without an Oven

While the oven is one of the best ways to reheat turkey evenly and keep it nice and moist, it's not your only option. If you don't have an oven handy or don't want to go to the trouble of preheating and all that jazz, you can also try these other methods.

Reheat in the Microwave

turning on a microwave

Only need one or two servings of turkey? The microwave is your friend. Microwaves don't heat evenly (as anyone who has burned themselves on a microwave burrito can attest), so it's important to work in short increments and keep things moving to heat evenly. You'll also want to cut the meat from the bones (even the dark meat).

  1. Place the turkey in a shallow microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Pour chicken or turkey broth over the meat.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic or a fitted lid.
  4. Heat the turkey on low power for one minute at a time. Stir it frequently and check to see if it feels warm.

Warm Up Turkey on the Stovetop

Another good way to reheat smaller portions is on the stovetop. You'll need a steamer basket and a pan with a tight-fitting lid, plus some broth.

  1. Pour about an inch of turkey or chicken broth in the bottom of a pan.
  2. Cut up the turkey in evenly sized pieces and place it in the steamer basket.
  3. Put the steamer basket in the pan and place the lid on top.
  4. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, checking to see if the turkey is warm. If necessary, cook longer.

Reheat Turkey in an Instant Pot

If you have an Instant Pot, you've got another option. Pour some water in the bottom of the pot and lay the sliced turkey on top in a pan. If you like, add some broth. Then cook for about five minutes or until the turkey is warm.

Great Leftovers, Any Way You Slice Them

No matter how you choose to reheat turkey, it makes a great main course for a dinner or lunch of leftovers. You can serve it with a different sauce if you want a change from the traditional gravy or heat it up with all the fixings for a repeat of your favorite holiday meal. No wrong answers here.

How to Reheat Turkey So It Stays Moist Every Time