How To Keep Turkey Warm Without Drying It Out

There is a very unpredictable motorway between my parents and me (M25). On their last visit, they were nearly two hours late! When I invite them to lunch I always plan to keep the food warm because I’m never sure when we will get to sit down and eat. At Christmas, that means keeping a turkey warm without drying it out at the same time.

We always enjoy turkey for our celebration lunch. Every year my husband argues for something else but he is always outnumbered!

I hear a lot of people say that they don’t like turkey at Christmas because it’s dry and tough. I don’t agree! However, if you follow the cooking directions to the letter you WILL end up with dry chewy turkey because supermarkets always seem to advise cooking it for much longer than it really needs. One year this happened to us and I vowed never to follow the directions again!

I know why supermarkets do this. They don’t want to be responsible for you getting food poisoning due to undercooked turkey. Who can blame them? But, the truth is, as long as you cook it properly and keep it warm the right way you are guaranteed to enjoy delicious turkey without the risk of getting sick. Make sure you read on for my advice on how to cook your turkey perfectly.

But back to the question – how to keep your turkey warm without drying it out?

Here’s the quick answer so you can be on your way to a succulent meal immediately (read on for the detail).

Don’t overcook your turkey. When it is done, take it out of the oven and cover it with aluminium foil. For extra insulation pile on some towels. You can keep your turkey warm for up to two hours as long as the temperature inside stays above 140F/60C.

I sometimes use affiliate links. When you click these links and make a purchase, I may get a small commission. It won’t cost you anything but it helps me to run this site.

How to keep a cooked turkey warm without drying it out

It isn’t hard at all to keep your turkey moist after baking. First off, there is a very important tool that you are going to need, and it will guarantee that your turkey is perfectly cooked.

If you are going to be keeping your turkey warm for longer than an hour I recommend you use a meat thermometer so you can keep an eye on the temperature inside the bird. You will also need one to help you roast the turkey perfectly without overcooking it.

There are lots of different types of meat thermometers available, but I prefer this digital type because you can leave it in while cooking and it will alert you the minute the meat is cooked.

Step 1 – Cook your turkey for the correct time

Overcooking your turkey will result in dry chewy meat that will be impossible to put right. The best way to get succulent delicious turkey is to cook it properly first. You can do this using a meat thermometer. Push it into the thickest part of the thigh, then roast until the temperature inside the bird reaches 165F/74C.

For the best-tasting turkey, avoid stuffing it. Stuffing the inside results in longer cooking times. The longer you have to cook your turkey the drier the areas like legs and wings will become because they tend to cook the quickest.

Step 2 – Remove your turkey immediately

cooked meat resting on a stainless steel platter

Remove your turkey from the oven as soon as the cooked temperature (165F/74C) is reached. Don’t be tempted to leave it in the oven any longer. The turkey will continue cooking after you remove it and the temperature inside may even go up too.

I have a stainless meat platter that I use to rest meat on and it’s perfect for a Christmas turkey. It has spikes on it that hold the meat in place and gullies around the edges to collect the meat juices.

Step 3 – Cover

turkey keeping warm

Cover your turkey completely with aluminium foil. A couple of layers is good. Then find some clean kitchen towels and pile them over the top. This will keep the turkey warm until you are ready to serve it, plus it will stop moisture from escaping so you don’t end up with dry meat.

You can keep your turkey warm like this for about two hours. However, to be safe it is best to keep your meat thermometer to hand. You shouldn’t let the temperature drop below 140F or 60C because at that point bacteria can start to grow.

A large turkey should stay above 140F for about an hour without the need to cover it.

Covering it with aluminium foil and towels will allow you to extend the ‘keep warm’ period to two hours. If you need to keep your turkey warm for longer than two hours I recommend refrigerating it and then reheating it later or letting it sit in a warm oven. Read on for more help on that.

Join The Newsletter
Subscribe to my list and get notified whenever I post!

How to keep a turkey warm in the oven

If you are wondering, can I leave a turkey in the oven after cooking? The answer is yes, you can leave a turkey in the oven after cooking it.

Here’s how to keep your turkey warm in the oven without drying it out:

  1. As soon as your turkey is cooked remove it from the oven.
  2. Reduce the temperature of your oven to 200F or 100C.
  3. If your oven has a fan, turn it off if you can. I find that the fan dries out meat quicker.
  4. Check the base of the oven dish. If there isn’t enough liquid there, pour in some hot water.
  5. Cover the whole bird with aluminium foil.
  6. Put the covered turkey back in the oven until you are ready to serve it. You can keep it there for as long as the temperature stays above 140F/60C inside the bird. However, keeping the turkey warm in the oven for longer than three hours could result in dry meat

If you think you will need to keep your turkey warm for longer than two or three hours I recommend you cook it ahead of time, refrigerate and then it reheat later.

Here is how to cook and reheat your turkey the next day without drying it out.

How to reheat turkey the next day without drying it out

A reader asked me if it was possible to keep a cooked turkey warm overnight. I can understand why you would want to do this if you don’t have time or capacity in your oven to get everything cooked.

However, keeping your turkey warm overnight is too long. My advice would be to cook it the previous day, carve it, refrigerate and then reheat it on the day you want to eat it. You will save a huge amount of time if you don’t have to carve it on the day.

Here’s how to serve your turkey the next day without drying it out.

  1. When your turkey is fully cooked and has rested for 30 minutes, pour some of the meat juices into the bottom of an oven-safe dish. Cover the base of the dish with about 1/4 inch of juice. If you don’t have enough liquid pour in a little water.
  2. Carve the turkey, separating the dark from the white meat.
  3. Put the meat into the dish. I like to put the dark meat and the joints on the bottom so the white meat isn’t sitting in the broth. If you don’t want any meat sitting in the broth, scrunch up some aluminium foil into balls and lay everything on that.
  4. Cover tightly with aluminium foil. If your dish has a lid, clamp it on over the top. The aim is to stop moisture from escaping.
  5. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. The next day preheat your oven to 300F or 150C and reheat your turkey (with the cover in place) for about 45 minutes.
  7. Your turkey will then be ready to eat. It will also be succulent and moist as if it was freshly cooked.

Related reading:

Frequently asked questions

Can you keep turkey warm in a slow cooker or crockpot?

Yes, you can keep a turkey warm in a crockpot. The best option is to carve it first.

Here’s how to keep your turkey warm in your crockpot or slow cooker.

  1. When your turkey is fully cooked and has rested for 30 minutes pour some of the juices into the bottom of the crockpot. Cover the dish with about 1/4 inch of juice. If you don’t have enough stock, pour in a little boiled water.
  2. Slice the turkey separating the dark from the white meat.
  3. Put the slices into the crockpot. I like to put the dark meat and the legs and wings on the bottom so the white meat isn’t sitting in the broth. If you prefer to keep all the meat out of the liquid, scrunch up some aluminium foil into balls and lay the meat on that.
  4. Cover tightly with aluminium foil, then put on the crockpot lid.
  5. Set the crockpot to a low or warm setting.

Related reading:

How To Use A Slow Cooker To Keep Food Warm

How do I keep my turkey from drying out?

The number one thing you can do to stop your turkey from drying out is not to overcook it. Use a meat thermometer. When the meat reaches ( 74C/165F) it is cooked. Cover the turkey with aluminium foil and a couple of tea towels while it rests. This will keep it warm and prevent the turkey from drying out.

Pro tip: Don’t carve the turkey until you are ready to eat. A whole turkey will keep warm and moist for longer than a sliced turkey.

How do I keep my turkey warm while resting?

A turkey needs to rest for about 30 minutes after cooking. If you have a large bird, it should stay warm during that time. To prevent heat loss in smaller turkeys add a layer of aluminium foil on top to keep heat in.

How long will a turkey stay warm in foil?

You can keep your turkey warm in foil for up to two hours. I recommend you also add a couple of tea towels over the top for extra insulation.

How to keep sliced turkey warm without drying out?

A great way to save time on the day is to slice your turkey ahead of time and then keep it warm until you are ready to eat.

  1. When your turkey is fully cooked and has rested for 30 minutes pour some of the juices into the bottom of a warmed oven-safe dish. Cover the dish with about 1/4 inch of juice. If you don’t have enough stock pour in a little boiled water.
  2. Slice the turkey separating the dark from the white meat.
  3. Put the slices into the dish I like to put the dark meat and the legs and wings on the bottom so the white meat isn’t sitting in the broth.
  4. Cover tightly with aluminium foil. If your dish has a lid, clamp it on over the top. The aim is to stop moisture from escaping.
  5. Now keep the turkey slices warm in the oven at 200f or 100c. The stock in the bottom of the dish should keep the meat moist.
This article and its contents are owned by sparklingpenny.com and was first published on 5 April 2022.
Join The Newsletter
Subscribe to my list and get notified whenever I post!
Photo of author

Penny | SparklingPenny

Hi, I'm Penny. A busy mum of two boys and one dog, with the aim to enjoy life to the full.