Stress-Free Thanksgiving: Cook the Turkey Overnight!

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

I often remember my mom waking up in the wee hours of the morning on Thanksgiving day to start our holiday turkey. Knowing that the turkey needed several hours to roast before guest arrived midday, and that she’d need oven space to finish off sides too, an early start was the only way she knew to make a lunchtime turkey possible.

Had she only known that not only could she slow roast the turkey overnight, but that the resulting bird would also be even more juicy and tender than her traditional bag method, she might have gotten more sleep and enjoyed the holiday more. Need a midday turkey without an early morning rise? Here’s how to roast your turkey overnight.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

For Stress-Free Overnight Cooking, Just Add Water

When cooking a large turkey (we’re talking 20 to 22 pounds) or planning for a Thanksgiving meal early in the day, making sure the turkey will be cooked in time is enough to lose sleep over. Andrea Watman, head of catering for New York City’s famous Zabar’s market, reveals her secret to a leisurely turkey day: cooking the bird overnight.

She plans to have the turkey in the oven by 11 p.m., be in bed by midnight, and wake up to take the bird out of the oven to cool at 7 a.m. How does she avoid a totally overcooked, dry bird? Watman adds water to her roasting pan (enough to reach the roasting rack without touching the turkey itself). She’s adamant this results in a fall-off-the-bone-tender turkey. The turkey starts with a blast of heat, roasting for 30 minutes at 400ºF and finishing up with a slow cook at 250ºF until 7 a.m. That’s about eight hours of cooking, stress free.

One more caveat to overnight roasting? You can’t stuff this bird. Instead make your stuffing or dressing outside the bird to ensure both the turkey and the stuffing are fully cooked. And don’t forget to check the temp. This bird needs to hit 165ºF in the thickest part of the thigh to be done.

Have you tried cooking your turkey overnight?

Read More: Andrea’s Overnight Turkey Recipe at Zabar’s

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