Carving the Turkey Early, Reducing the Stress of the Holiday Meal

Almost everyone has the image of the Norman Rockwell painting of Freedom from Want with the grandmother presenting the turkey to her family at the dining room table on a platter. It is a nice image, but from my own personal experience, carving a turkey can be a self-imposed stressful experience and not an activity I wish to perform in front of large gathering all waiting to dive into the holiday meal. Not to mention, I typically need to change my clothes and take a shower after carving a turkey and breaking down the carcass to yield as much meat off of the bird.

With this being said, this Thanksgiving I was responsible for roasting the turkey, but the meal was going to be a friend’s house. I went through all of the possible options of when to cook the turkey, how to transport the turkey, where to carve the turkey and when to carve the turkey. In the end, my mother came to my rescue by mentioning that her friend for many years would cook and carve the turkey the on Wednesday, the day prior to Thanksgiving. The meat would be in a pan and reheated in the oven with chicken broth.

Perfectly Roasted 20 Pound Turkey for Thanksgiving

Perfectly Roasted 20 Pound Turkey for Thanksgiving

At first I had difficulty believing that this process would actually work. How could a turkey cooked the prior day still be moist and tender? The key to keeping the turkey moist and tender was to pour enough chicken broth to cover the bottom ¼ inch of the pan and then tightly seal the entire pan with aluminum foil.

Early on Thanksgiving morning, I pulled the turkey out of the refrigerator, removed the giblets, wash the turkey and then covered with entire bird with melted butter, salt and black pepper. The turkey went into the oven for the recommended amount of time and when finished I removed the perfectly cooked bird. I allowed to turkey to cool down and then proceeded to carve the turkey removing both the white and dark meat. I placed all of the meat into a large deep aluminum pan and poured in enough chicken broth to cover the bottom ¼ inch of the pan. The aluminum pan was then tightly wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in the refrigerator.

A few hours later when it was time to go to our friends for Thanksgiving dinner, the tightly wrapped plan was easily placed in the back of the vehicle and brought to our friend’s. About 45 minutes prior to sitting down to eat, I preheated their oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and placed the covered pan into the oven. Once we were ready to eat, I removed the pan from the oven, removed the aluminum foil cover and in the pan was steaming moist sliced turkey.

Carved Turkey Meat in an Aluminum Pan

Carved Turkey Meat in an Aluminum Pan

Of course I was still hesitant that the turkey would be dry and tough, but true to my mother’s instructions, the turkey was perfect. In fact, it was some of the best turkey I have ever eaten. As promised the turkey was moist and tender. I know that I will never even attempt to time the turkey being ready and carved just before we sit down for a holiday meal ever again. Not only is having the turkey ready to serve hours or even a day earlier a less stressful way to prepare for the meal, but having the turkey already carved and ready to be served on a platter for the table allows the oven to be used for other dishes and helps minimize the amount of cleaning required after the meal.

For me, the additional time provided allowed me to start the stock pot to make Roasted Turkey Soup from the carcass before leaving for the dinner at our friends. Yes, the image of the turkey being brought to the table is a nice image, but in the end, less stress will always make for a better memory of the holiday meal with friends and family.

Remains of Thanksgiving

Turkey Carcass on Cutting Board


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