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How to Reheat Turkey in Microwave

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Whether leftover turkey is fried, grilled, roasted or smoked, there is always a desire to use all the leftovers in upcoming meal prep. However, it’s even more enjoyable when reheated to retain the moist and juicy tenderness instead of tough and overcooked dryness.

From sliced turkey breast to turkey legs, each part needs to be reheated properly to fully enjoy. To maintain the moisture level and original flavor, using microwave is an efficient time saving method compared to heating methods such as oven or stovetop. 

How do you reheat turkey in microwave? Carve out the breast meat into thin slices and remove the leg meat from the bone to cut into small strips. The bigger the pieces, the longer it takes to reheat. 

Turkey meat on the bone is not recommended in the microwave as it may result in uneven heating.

Place the meat in a microwave-safe dish or container, ensure it is in a single layer and avoid overcrowding the plate. Drizzle with stock or gravy to enhance the flavor.

Microwave on medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 74 degrees Celsius or 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the internal temperature with a thermometer, and if necessary continue to reheat for 30 second bursts until the desired safe temperature to consume.

The microwave method is the fasted and easiest way to reheat turkey, but it’s only effective when small portions of turkey need to be reheated. When reheating a large amount to feed the family, reheat in smaller batches to avoid overcrowding

Even when reheating sliced turkey using a microwave, it is recommended to sliced into thin uniform pieces for even heating throughout. Otherwise thick pieces will take much longer than thing pieces that may overcook and dry out.

Reheating in the microwave can enable the turkey to keep its moisture and, in this article, we will walk you through how to avoid drying out leftover turkey.  Answered below are frequently asked questions about how exactly to reheat turkey leftovers so that it stays moist, tender and delicious.

Can you microwave a turkey?

Yes, you can microwave a turkey. However, it is recommended to microwave small portions of turkey to provide even heating and avoid overcooking that will lead to dry, tough and chewy meat. 

Microwave is used to reheat cooked turkey or defrost frozen turkey, but never put a frozen turkey in the microwave on high. In case the turkey is frozen, fully thaw before reheating. 

When reheating or defrosting in the microwave, the turkey is placed in a microwave-safe dish and covered with a microwaveable lid so that the moisture doesn’t escape. 

Start the microwave on a medium mode for 2 minutes. Additional 30 second increments may be necessary to get the meat piping hot to an internal temperature of 74℃ or 165℉ for it to be safe to consume.

If the microwave is needed to cook raw turkey meat, place the raw turkey on a microwave-safe dish and cover it with a damp towel to trap steam and enhance the cooking process. 

Set the microwave for 50% power usage and start the process for 8 minutes per pound of raw turkey. Flip and rotate the bird every 10 minutes until reaching the proper internal temp.

Is it safe to reheat turkey in a microwave?

Yes, it is safe to reheat precooked turkey in a microwave. As long as the leftover turkey, then it can be reheated to an internal temperature of 74 degrees Celsius or 165 degrees Fahrenheit for safe consumption.

Be aware to overcook nor undercook the meat. It is dangerous to consume the turkey meat that is under 165 degree Fahrenheit or 74 degree Celsius as it can result in food poisoning. 

Furthermore, the meat must be cooled and stored according to safe food handling guidelines. If the turkey smells foul or off-putting in any manner, then do not proceed with reheating as it may be spoiled.

Can you reheat cold cooked turkey?

Yes, you can reheat cold cooked turkey. Heat the leftover turkey to an internal temperature of 74 degrees Celsius or 165 degrees Fahrenheit for it to be safe and ready to eat.

If the cooled turkey was stored in a fridge, then thaw it at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before starting the reheating process. Bear in mind that cold turkey can be stored for 4 days in the fridge, and it’s highly recommended to reheat it before serving.

Slice the turkey into thin uniform pieces to prevent drying up as reheating process continues. Also, remove any bones as this can result in uneven heating caused by the bones shielding heat from the meat.

How many times can you microwave a turkey?

Pre-cooked or roasted turkey should only be reheated once. It is not a good idea to reheat more than once as this can expose the meat to harmful food borne bacteria or cause excessive dryness that makes the meat tough and chewy. 

In the temperature danger zone range of 40 to 140℉, bacteria thrive that may cause health issues and food poisoning when consumed. As a result, repeated heating and cooling exposes the meat to this range of temperature that is not safe for perishable foods.

Technically, turkey meat is safe to eat when it reaches a temperature of 74℃ or 165℉. Keep cold or refrigerated until time to reheat, and only heat up the amount that will be eaten at this time.

How long do you microwave a turkey to reheat?

In general, it takes between 3 to 5 minutes to reheat a pound of leftover turkey. To determine the correct microwaving time to reheat turkey depend on the amount of turkey meat, thickness of the pieces and the microwave wattage. 

It is recommended to cut the turkey meat into thin pieces and debone prior to microwaving. This will shorten the reheating time and heat thoroughly.

For medium heat or 70% power level, cooked turkey is reheated for 3 minutes in the microwave or until it reaches 74 degrees Celsius or 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Once the microwaving process is done, always let it sit for a minute or two before serving to allow the carryover heat to fully subside.

Tips for reheating turkey in the microwave

To perform the effective reheating process of cooked turkey with a microwave, the following safety tips must be put in place.

  • Leftover turkey typically lasts between 3 to 5 days, any longer and there is an increased risk of food spoilage.
  • Allow cold turkey to thaw for around 15 to 20 minutes at room temp before reheating it in the microwave.
  • Cooled turkey might have bacteria that grow at low temperature; hence reheating the turkey to be warm and to become piping hot. Use a meat thermometer to find out safe internal temperature. 
  • Do not reheat turkey leftovers more than once. 
  • Reheating is done when the turkey is cut into thin uniform pieces.
  • Always remove any bones from the turkey leg.
  • To preserve moisture, add small amounts of gravy, water, stock, olive oil or butter on the meat.
  • Place the turkey into a microwave safe dish.
  • Use a microwave cover, damp paper towel or microwaveable plastic wrap to trap steam and avoid drying out the meat.
  • Ensure the temperature reaches around 75℃ or 165℉ for the perishable food to be safe to eat.

Best way to reheat turkey in the microwave

There are many ways to reheat cooked or roast turkey meat after Thanksgiving meal. Whether you have turkey leg, breast, or slices leftover, there are always creative meals to make for breakfast or quick lunch to pair with green bean casserole, mashed potatoes or stuffing.

Reheating turkey in the microwave is am easy time saver when in a hurry. Not only does it save time, but it is a simple way to thoroughly heat turkey meat quickly.

Prepare the turkey by slicing or dicing into small, thin, uniform sized pieces, and also remove any bones. Place the meat in a single layer inside a microwave-safe dish, and make sure to not overcrowd the pieces as it may cause irregular heating that will result in overcooking and drying out the meat.

Cover the dish with a microwavable lid, damp paper towel or loose plastic wrap. Adding a spoonful of gravy, water, butter, olive oil or stock can help to increase flavor and maintain moistness. 

Microwave for 2 minutes on a medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. 30 second increments allow you to keep a watchful eye on the process and tip or rotate the turkey pieces to provide for even heating.

Use an instant read thermometer to check that the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit or 74 degrees Celsius for the perishable food to be safe to consume.

How to reheat turkey in microwave

Reheating Turkey in Microwave: Conclusion

Reheating turkey using the microwave is the quickest and easiest way to warm cold cooked turkey. The issue with reheating precooked turkey meat is that it tends to lose its moisture content when stored in fridge or freezer for extended period of time.

The maximum storage time in the fridge for any part to turkey is 3 to 5 days. So, if you plan on serving turkey leftover more than a week old, it is advised to freeze them in an airtight container to save the freshness.

Whether you are warming up turkey leg or breast meat, it is recommended to warm single or double portion quantities at a time. Slice into small cubes and remove any bones to help reheat even faster.

Transfer to a microwave-safe container and position in a single layer so the meat does not look crowded. Splash with a spoonful of water or turkey stock for flavor and extra moisture; gravy, olive oil and butter do the trick as well.

Loosely cover the dish with a microwaveable lid, damp paper towel or plastic wrap. This will help trap steam for better heating and to keep the moisture intact.

Set the microwave on medium heat or 70% power level for 2 minutes. If more heat is needed, provide 30 second bursts to reach the safe temperature to consume.

Do not undercook the turkey meat even though the meat is pre-cooked and stored properly. Since bacteria can be active on under heated turkey meat that may lead to food poisoning, always reheat turkey meat to an internal temperature of 74 degrees Celsius or 165 degrees Fahrenheit as recommended by the USDA. 

Enjoy your reheated turkey with a side of mac and cheese or with a salad as a healthy option. Always reheat a portion or two at a time, and most importantly avoid reheating turkey leftovers more than once.