Believe it or not, it’s possible to roast your turkey ahead of time and store the cooked meat in the freezer to reheat and serve on the big day. If this sounds a bit too much like eating leftovers, let me assure you that by following these simple freezing and reheating instructions, you’ll have moist, delicious turkey — and not one of your guests will suspect you didn’t spend the entire holiday slaving away in the kitchen keeping watch over a hot oven.
I’m posting this one week before Christmas which might be a bit too late for the rest of you to prepare ahead for next week, but I wanted turkey dinner tonight and I’m going to do the freeze-ahead thing so we’ll have an easy dinner on New Year’s. Be sure to bookmark this page or print it out in your recipe notebook for future reference!
Feel free to use your own favorite turkey recipe if you prefer, and then follow the freezing/reheating instructions at the end of this article (but I personally don’t think you’ll find a tastier turkey recipe!).
TO PREPARE TURKEY:
- 3 onions, quartered
- 6 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 cups white wine (or water or chicken broth)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- 2 teaspoons sage
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 3 cups chicken broth, canned (reserve for freezing process)
In bottom of a deep roasting pan, place two quartered onions, four celery stalks, the carrots, bay leaves and white wine (or water). Remove turkey giblets, rinse bird inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Stuff turkey loosely with remaining quartered onion and celery stalks. Brush turkey with olive oil mixed with salt, pepper, sage, and thyme. Cover turkey loosely with a large sheet of foil coated lightly with olive oil, crimping foil on to edges of roasting pan. Cook according to chart below. During last 45 minutes, cut band of skin or string between legs and tail. Uncover and continue roasting until done. Baste, if desired.
Turkey Roasting Chart (loosely wrapped with foil):
- 12-16 pounds / 325 degrees F / 4 – 5 hours
- 16-20 pounds / 325 degrees F / 5 – 6 hours
- 20-24 pounds / 325 degrees F / 6 – 7 hours
Testing for doneness:
About 20 minutes before roasting time is completed, test bird. Flesh on thickest part of drumstick should feel soft when squeezed between fingers, drumstick should move up an down easily, and meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of leg should read 185 degrees F. (Or follow manufacturer’s instructions.)
– FREEZING INSTRUCTIONS
DRIPPINGS: Pour liquid and drippings from roasting pan into a bowl. Remove vegetables. Allow bowl of liquid to cool in refrigerator until fat congeals on top. Scoop off fat with a spoon and pour drippings into a labeled freezer bag. Thaw to use for making gravy on serving day.
TURKEY: Allow turkey to cool in pan for 1/2 hour; then place turkey and its roasting pan into refrigerator. Allow to cool completely (several hours). When fully chilled, slice turkey as usual. Remove all meat from bones. Place breast and dark meat slices into labeled freezer bags. Pour canned chicken broth into bags over meat. Freeze.
TO SERVE: Thaw bag of meat and broth, and place into a covered baking dish for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Or place turkey and broth into a microwave-safe dish, cover with plastic wrap, and heat until hot (the time will vary with different microwaves, so check manufacturer’s instructions). Drain off broth (reserve to make more gravy, if needed). Arrange the heated turkey slices attractively on a serving platter. Serve hot.
**Excerpted and adapted from the 10-Day Holiday Meal Plan in Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month (SourceBooks).