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Make ahead roasted turkey on a blue platter.

Make Ahead Roasted Turkey

If you're pressed for time (or oven space), Make Ahead Roasted Turkey is just what you need. With this technique, cooking turkey the day before, the week before, or even the month before, still tastes delicious and freshly carved.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
cooling 30 minutes
Total Time 5 hours 15 minutes
Servings 16 people
Calories 413kcal


For the turkey:

  • 1 (15 pound) whole turkey thawed with neck, heart, and gizzards removed and discarded (see note 1)
  • 2 teaspoon poultry seasoning (see note 2)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth (see note 3)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme minced, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary minced, or 1 teaspoon dried and crushed
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice freshly squeezed
  • 2 cloves garlic minced

For reheating and making the gravy:

  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour


To make the turkey:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place turkey on a rack inside a roasting pan, breast side up. Sprinkle with poultry seasoning and pepper. Tuck wings under turkey; tie drumsticks together.
  • Roast, uncovered, 30 minutes. In a 4-cup measuring cup, mix broth, herbs, lemon zest and juice, and garlic; pour over turkey. Roast, uncovered, until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees, about 3 to 3 1/2 hours. 
  • While turkey is roasting, baste occasionally with broth mixture. Cover loosely with foil if turkey browns too quickly.
  • Remove turkey from pan; let stand at least 20 minutes before carving. Skim fat from cooking juices.

To freeze the roasted turkey:

  • Carve the turkey and place in shallow freezer containers. Pour cooking juices over turkey then let cool slightly, about one hour. Cover and freeze up to 3 months.

To thaw and reheat the roasted turkey:

  • Partially thaw the turkey in refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer turkey and cooking juices to a baking dish.
  • Pour 1 1/2 cups broth over top. Bake, covered, until a thermometer inserted in the turkey reads 165 degrees, 50-60 minutes. Remove turkey to a platter, reserving cooking juices, and keep warm. 

To make the gravy and serve:

  • In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, stir in flour until smooth. Gradually whisk in the cooking juices; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve gravy alongside turkey.


  1. Turkey: Plan on 1 ¼ pounds per person. If you can't find a turkey small enough for your group, consider a turkey breast instead. And if you're feeding a large group, consider a couple of medium or large turkeys rather than an enormous one (it is easier to thaw and cook a couple of average birds rather than the biggest one you can find).
  2. Poultry seasoning: For extra flavor, season the outside of your turkey with homemade poultry seasoning. It's a simple blend of sage, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, nutmeg, and black pepper. Or, substitute store-bought.
  3. Chicken broth: Homemade chicken broth, or turkey broth, if you’re one step ahead of things. If you like, you can simmer the neck and gizzards in water while the turkey roasts to make a quick version of turkey broth (discard the liver). Store-bought works, too.
  4. Yield: Plan for 1 ¼ pounds turkey per person (some of the weight is from bones). This recipe assumes a 15-pound bird which will feed about 12 people (about 1 ½ cups turkey per person or 18 cups total). The math is: 12 people x 1.25 pounds per person = 15-pound turkey.
  5. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  6. Thaw safely: The best (and safest) way to thaw a frozen turkey is slowly in the refrigerator over the course of several days. It takes longer, but it is infinitely safer. Never thaw a turkey using warm/hot water, in the microwave, or at room temperature, all of which let bacteria grow before the turkey is thawed.
  7. Brine: A dry brine is a great way to infuse your turkey with extra flavor, if you have the time and inclination. If brining, look for a turkey with the words “no salt added” on the label. Stay away from “self-basting” or Kosher turkeys which are already injected with a brine.
  8. Roasting times may vary: After all, you may be cooking a slightly smaller or larger turkey. An unstuffed turkey takes about 15 minutes per pound when roasted at 325 degrees. However, the best way to tell if a turkey is roasted through is with a good meat thermometer (165 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh).
  9. Carving: It's easiest to carve one entire side of the first and then move on to the second side. See my full tutorial on carving a turkey for more information.
  10. Stuffing a turkeychicken, or hen: For food safety reasons, and for a more evenly cooked bird, most modern recipes don’t encourage stuffing a turkey. If you decide to stuff your turkey, make sure the stuffing is warm when it goes in so it has a head start in cooking (either because you just finished making it, or because you made it in advance and reheated it). Use a large spoon or your hands to loosely stuff the body and neck cavities (do not pack it tightly because the stuffing expands while it cooks). Truss the main cavity with trussing pins to keep the stuffing inside. The stuffing must register 165 degrees on an internal thermometer to be safe to eat.


Calories: 413kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 61g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 203mg | Sodium: 567mg | Potassium: 701mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 378IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 3mg