Prepping a big meal all in one day is stressful. A little careful planning with this Make Ahead Roast Turkey can make things a lot easier.
Prepping a big turkey for a holiday meal together with many other dishes to cook at the same time can be stressful. Messing up the kitchen sink by washing the turkey adds to the stress. Yet, you prefer not to fully cook and carve the turkey the day before because it is the centerpiece of your holiday table and you want it to make a grand entrance. Also, the aroma of it roasting in the oven adds to the holiday atmosphere. So, what do you do?
Prepping The Turkey Ahead of Time
You prep the turkey ahead of time and just pop it in the oven when you are ready to roast it. This is what I did for the recent Thanksgiving turkey. I was out at the grocery store a week before Thanksgiving and decided to pick up the turkey since there were still small ones weighing 8 to 12 pounds each. When I got home, I realized that I did not have freezer space but I did have fridge space and so I left it to thaw in the refrigerator.
After 3 days, the turkey was fully thawed. Not wanting it to sit in the bag, I could either brine it or I could clean it and essentially marinate it. I went with the latter this time.
Steps in Make Ahead Roast Turkey
1. 7 days before you plan to roast the turkey, purchase a frozen turkey. If you prefer to get a fresh turkey, then plan on picking up the turkey 3 days before you plan to roast it.
2. Place the turkey in the refrigerator and allow it to thaw completely. A 10 to 12 pounds turkey will take 2 to 3 days to that in the refrigerator.
3. Prepare the turkey for roasting like you normally would but do not truss it yet. Wrap it with plastic wrap and allow the turkey to marinate in the refrigerator for 2 days.
4. On the morning you plan to roast the turkey, finish the preparation by stuffing both the neck and body cavities and trussing it ready for roasting. Place it back in the refrigerator and you are now free to work on the other dishes on your menu.
5. When it is time for roasting, simply brush on the melted butter and pop it in the oven for 2 to 3 hours.
I found this useful because I did not have to mess up my sink and could concentrate on working on the other dishes on my menu. The recipe below worked out nicely and the pan drippings made a wonderful Creamy Turkey Gravy perfect with the roast turkey and my Creamy Mashed Potatoes. Please do check them out.
Tools used in making this Make Ahead Roast Turkey
This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy here.
Farberware Nonstick Bakeware 11-Inch x 15-Inch Roaster with Flat Rack, Gray
Calphalon Contemporary Hard Anodized Nonstick 16-Inch Roasting Pan with Rack 5 piece Set
KitchenAid Stainless Steel Meat Thermometer
Make Ahead Roast Turkey
- 1 frozen turkey (10 to 12 lbs)
- 1 tbsp kosher salt (or coarse salt)
- 1 medium onion
- 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp butter ((melted)
- 1 tbsp poultry seasoning (or rubbed sage)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- Purchase frozen turkey 7 days before you plan to roast it. Place in the refrigerator and allow turkey to thaw for 3 days.
- On the 4th day, remove turkey from packaging. Take neck and giblets out of the turkey cavity. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers. Wash the turkey inside out. Pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle cavity with kosher salt.
- Zest the lemon. After zesting, keep the lemon in the refrigerator.
- Combine lemon zest, poultry seasoning (or rubbed sage), dried thyme, salt, and ground pepper in a small bowl.
- Rub mixture all over the turkey.
- Place turkey on a roasting rack in a deep pan breast side up and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 days.
- On the morning of roasting day, cut reserved lemon in half. Peel onion and cut in half. Slice each half of the onion but not all the way so that the slices are together.
- Remove turkey from the refrigerator. Stuff one half onion and one half lemon in the turkey cavity. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
- Turn the turkey over. Stuff remaining half onion and lemon into the neck cavity. Fold the neck skin over and secure it in place with toothpicks.
- Place the turkey with breast side up on the rack. Tug the wings under the body. Return the turkey unwrapped to the refrigerator until time for roasting.
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Brush melted butter all over the turkey. Pour 2 cups (480ml) water into the pan.
- Transfer turkey to the preheated 375˚F (190˚C) oven and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325˚F (165˚C) and continue to roast for another 2 to 2½ hours.
- If the turkey is browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil.
- According to the FDA, the turkey is safe when a food thermometer inserted into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast reaches a temperature of 165°F (74°C).
- Remove from oven and allow turkey to rest for 20 minutes before carving.
This Make Ahead Roast Turkey was really flavorful and we all enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner. Initially, I had a different plan for the side dishes but made some last minute changes after going to the grocery store. The two favorites from this blog are
1. Candied Sweet Potato
2. Cranberry Sauce
I also made Green Beans with Bacon and Cornbread Apple Sausage Stuffing which I will be sharing soon.
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