Turkey Done Early: What to Do? (All You Need to Know)

Most cooks do not prepare a whole turkey more than once a year, but it is one of the most important holiday traditions. Usually served at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and dinner parties, it has become a staple in most countries. Since turkey is usually prepared ahead of time, you may wonder what to do if you did it too early. So, you may ask:

If my turkey is done early, what should I do? If your turkey is done early, you should first release the initial heat from cooking. Then, it would be best if you kept it warm in several ways. However, it would be best to do so without overcooking the turkey. Thus, we compiled four easy steps below to ensure you do it right. 

When turkeys are prepared ahead of time, things can become complicated. Unfortunately, you miscalculated somehow and cooked your perfect turkey too early. However, do not be alarmed. It does not mean the world has ended. You can still make the delicious meal and save yourself the trouble of making another one.

Below, you’ll read everything you need to know about handling your turkey, especially when you finished preparing it a bit too early. This way, you can still enjoy this food in the best way even when you cooked it quite ahead of time.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Turkey Done EarlyPin

What to do when the turkey is done too early?

Below are four easy steps to follow when your turkey is done too early. You can read further below to make sure you preserve your turkey and enjoy it in the best way possible.

Let the heat from cooking dissipate. 

Firstly, you need to release the heat of the turkey from the cooking process. This way, the coating won’t melt from the turkey once you apply it. Then, when the turkey is ready a few hours before eating it, you should let it rest for a couple of hours.

Keep your turkey warm.

Maintaining the temperature of your meal is the next step to take. After completing it an hour earlier, you should leave it on for at least 20-30 minutes. After that, wrap it tightly with aluminum foil at least three layers thick. Next, cover it with a large towel and fold it. Using foil and a towel or blanket will ensure your turkey stays warm.

You should use boiling water.

Warming your meal with boiling water is the most efficient way. Therefore, if the foil is not keeping your turkey warm enough, you can place the foil-coated turkey in boiling water. The foil prevents the water from getting into the turkey by keeping your meal hot with boiling water. This method does not require you to heat the turkey. However, turkeys need to be cooked at a temperature of at least 140 degrees. Failure to do so can result in harmful bacteria multiplying.

Preheat your bowl in the oven.

First, prepare a serving platter and cover the legs, chest, and buttocks with foil. Next, the bowl should be preheated in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350°F, just before serving. While this is not the ideal method for serving turkey, the meat is juicy and moist, so you should not be concerned about food safety.

Can I leave the turkey in the oven after cooking?

Yes, you can leave the turkey in the oven after cooking. However, it’s not the best way to do so since you should let the heat dissipate to prevent overcooking the turkey. Thus, if you finished cooking the turkey ahead of time, you should take it out of the oven, let it rest for half an hour or more, and then cover it with foil and a blanket to keep it warm.

Can I cook turkey early and reheat it?

Yes, you can cook turkey and reheat it. However, it’s not the best way to enjoy turkey, especially during holidays. The best thing to do is to cook your turkey a couple of hours before you plan on eating it. 

If you have any marinade or brine, you can prepare it a day before to ensure the flavor penetrates the turkey. Now, if you don’t have that time to prepare turkey, you can always cook it early and then reheat it.

How do you keep the turkey warm without drying it out?

You can keep the turkey warm without drying it out by covering it with a foil and a blanket. The next step is to maintain the temperature of your meal. As soon as you have finished it, it would be best if you left it running for at least twenty to thirty minutes. Once that is done, wrap a thick layer of aluminum foil around it. Next, put a large towel over it and fold it in half. Wrapping your turkey in foil and covering it with a blanket or towel will keep it warm.

Should you let the turkey rest after cooking?

Yes, it would be best to let the turkey rest after cooking. However, resting is an essential aspect that you should not skip, especially when cooking turkey. The meat should be allowed to re-absorb the juices for 45 minutes. Otherwise, they’ll dribble when sliced, leaving it dry. Tent the turkey with foil while resting to keep it warm; it is unnecessary and will cause the skin to become soggy.

How do you rest a turkey after cooking?

Resting a turkey after cooking is quite simple. Once the turkey is cooked, carefully remove it from the tray and rest it on top of the board. Meanwhile, loosely cook your roast potatoes or other side dishes, covering the foil.

How long will a turkey stay warm after cooking?

Depending on the size of the turkey, it can stay warm in an hour or two after cooking. So you don’t have to worry about the bird cooling too quickly if you’re running behind when preparing your holiday meal. Its rounded shape and large size make it easy to retain heat and allow you to eat far beyond the usual 30-minute break.

How to keep a turkey warm for 2 hours?

If you want to keep a turkey warm for two hours, you need to rest your turkey for an hour-long after cooking it. Then it would be best to cover it with foil and a blanket to retain the heat of the meat for the next hour. This way, you can enjoy a warm turkey two hours after cooking it.

How to keep a turkey warm for 3 hours?

After you cook a turkey, you should rest it for an hour to keep it warm for three hours. Then, to retain the heat of the meat for the next hour, you should cover it with foil and a blanket. 

If you think the turkey gets cold, you can place it in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit or put it in boiling water with the foil to keep the water from entering the turkey.

How to keep a turkey warm for 4 hours?

If you want to keep a turkey warm for four hours, you should let the heat from cooking dissipate and let your turkey rest without covering for one and a half hours. Then you can cover it with foil and a blanket to retain the heat for the next hour. 

Also, you can place it in the oven at the lowest temperature. In addition, you can preheat the serving plate to keep it warm just before you’re about to serve the turkey.

Smoked turkey is done early – what to do?

Things can get a little complicated if you smoke the turkey too early, but it isn’t the end of the world. Let it sit uncovered for around 20 to 30 minutes if you have finished it around an hour early. Then, keep your turkey warm by wrapping it in aluminum foil and a thick towel. 


In a nutshell, preparing turkey ahead of time can lead you to cook it too early. If your turkey is already cooked, you should first release the initial heat. From there, you should keep it warm in several ways. Just be careful not to overcook the turkey. We’ve outlined four simple steps below to ensure that you do it right. 

Things can become complicated when turkeys are prepared ahead of time. Somehow, despite your best efforts, you miscalculated and cooked your turkey too early. But, the world hasn’t ended, so don’t be alarmed. As long as you follow the tips we mentioned earlier, you can enjoy your turkey even if you prepared it ahead of time.

Also Read:


Image credits – Canva

You May Also Like