Turkey Done Too Early (3 Easy Ways to Save Your Turkey)

Are you cooking a turkey?

Worried it might be finished cooking before your guest arrived?

After all that hard work the last thing you want to do is serve cold turkey!

Don’t worry there are three proven methods below to ensure your turkey is declious and succulent when you eventually serve it!

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My Turkey Has Finished Cooking Earlier Than Expected – What Do I Do?

Is your turkey done to early? Don’t panic!

These things happen!

I have three simple methods that will ensure you still serve delicious turkey!

There is the oven method, the faux cambro method and the slice and reheat method.

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Check Each Part Is Cooked to the Right Internal Temperature

Turkeys are large birds and contain different types of meat and cuts.

Just because the white meat from the breast is done, it doesn’t mean the dark meat from the legs is.

This is because there are different temperatures of doneness in each part.

You should always monitor internal temp with a meat thermometer.

Insert the probes into the thickest parts of the cuts. At least 1 in the thigh and 1 in the breast meat.

The internal temperature for the turkey breast should read an internal temp of 165°F.

The safe temperature for the leg and thigh meat should be 165°F.

Note: Make sure your probe is not touching any bones. This will give an inaccurate reading.

Tip: Wrap the top of the breasts in aluminum foil while waiting for the thighs.

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How Long Is It Before You Want to Consume the Turkey?

After checking the internal temperatures you now need to ask yourself how long you have.

Is it an hour or multiple hours?

This can determine the method of keeping the turkey warm.

Note: A whole cooked turkey should be rested for at least an hour.

This should always be factored in when cooking.

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The Oven Method (1-2 Hours Early)

This method does work but it can result in a dry turkey.

Also, note that we do not want to continue the cooking process.

Keeping your cooked turkey wrapped in foil and in a warm oven will work.

Just don’t go over the 2-hour mark as a conventional oven may extend the cooking.

Which will dry out the meat and potentially burn that crispy skin you tried so hard to get!

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Step 1 – Set Your Oven to the Lowest Temp

Most ovens will go as low as 150°F.

Set yours at the lowest temperature.

Step 2 – Double Wrap Your Turkey

– Double wrap your turkey in aluminum foil.

Step 3 – Put Your Foil-Coated Turkey in the Oven

– Place your wrapped turkey on an oven tray.

– Put the turkey in the warm oven.

Note: The layers of aluminum foil will reflect the heat and lock in the juices.

The ‘Fax Cambro’ Method (1-4 Hours Early)

If your beautiful turkey has been cooked 1-3 hours before then the ‘faux cambro’ method does the trick.

A Cambro is an insulated box used by professional caterers to transport cooked food.

While also keeping it ready to eat.

I know that most home cooks will not have one of these.

This is why it’s known as the ‘faux’ method.

Have the following;
– A insulated cool box large enough for the turkey.
– A clean oven dish that fits the bottom of the cooler.
– 2-3 large clean towels.
– Hot water.
– Aluminium foil.
– Meat thermometer.

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Step 1 – Clean & Heat the Cooler

– Make sure your cooler has been cleaned with boiling water.
– Fill the cooler 2 thirds of the way with hot tap water.
– Seal and wait 30 minutes.

Note: Turn off your cooking device, wrap the turkey in foil and then put it back in the cooking chamber.
Do this while waiting for the cooler to come to temp.

Step 2 – Wrap Turkey With a Second Layer of Foil & Disregard the Water

– Use heavy-duty aluminum foil to wrap your turkey a second time.

– Disregard all of the water from the cooler.

Step 3 – Further Insulate the Cooler & Add Turkey

Line all the sides and bottom with the towels on the inside of the cooler.

 – Place your turkey on the oven tray and into the cooler.

Step 4 –  Cover the Turkey & Wait

Cover the top of the turkey with another towel.

– Seal the cooler.

– Keep it in there for a maximum of 3-4 hours.

Note: This is also the best way to rest your turkey.

Take The Turkey Apart For Reheating (4 hours + Early)

If your turkey is done 4 hours or more before then I reccomend carving the meat after resting.

Once your meat has rested, carve your meat into portions.

Remove the legs, thighs, and breasts.

Cover and ait until the meat has come to room temp (around 30 minutes).

Transfer the meat to an airtight container and refrigerate.

Salvage as much juice from the meat as you can which should also be stored the same way.

Cover the cooled meat evenly with the juices.

Reheat at 300°F for 15 minutes.

Tip: Make a hot gravy to help introduce and keep your cooled meat hot for longer after serving.

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What Is the Best Way to Cook a Whole Turkey?

I recommend cooking a whole turkey with indirect heat on a pellet smoker.

This will ensure all the parts are cooked equally:
-Incorporating flavor.
-Developing a crispy skin.
-Ensuring moist meat.
Read on below to see the best temperatures and timings.

What Could Have Caused My Turkey to Be Done Early & How to Avoid It

See below for some ideas why your turkey could have cooked too quickly.

You Didn’t Check The Weight

Knowing the weight of what you cooking is imperative to work out the cooking times.

Make sure you know the exact weight by looking at the packaging. Or ask your butcher.

Your Cooking Temperature Was Too High


The best temp to cook a whole turkey is 275°F with indirect heat from your smoker.

Any lower at you will be waiting all day. Especially for a larger turkey.

Any higher and the skin and breasts will burn.

While the inside meat in the legs and thigh remain raw. This can lead to food poisoning.

Estimate the Cooking Times Based on Weight & Cooking Temperature

At 275°F a turkey will cook at 15 minutes per pound.

For example, a 14-pound turkey will cook for 210 minutes.

This is a great guideline to go by, but make sure you are using those meat probes!

So you accurately can measure the internal temperatures.

Ensuring you know exactly when the meat is ready to consume.

Good luck!

Smoke On!

Charlie

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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