Divine Dinner Party

Cook Turkey Overnight:
How to Do it Safely

Some people like to cook turkey overnight as a slow-roast method using a 200 degree oven.

And while it can be done --and often is-- the US Department of Agriculture doesn't really recommend low temperatures for cooking poultry. It increases the risk of food poisoning particularly to individuals who are very young, very old, or ill. The Dept. of Agriculture recommends a safe cooking temperature of 325 degrees.

Okay, so I started off a little dramatic, right? Well, the truth is, many people use this method to cook a turkey. And most of the time, it comes out just beautifully-- and doesn't make anybody sick. That said, if you're going to try to cook turkey overnight please do so with the risks in mind. And take every other precaution possible to make your turkey come out safely.

Rather not take the risk? You'll find a ton of perfectly safe recipes for cooking a turkey right here at Holiday Turkey Headquarters.

3 Safety Tips to Cook Turkey Overnight

Thawing a Turkey for Cooking Overnight1. Thaw Correctly. You can eliminate some of the risks of turkey baked in the oven overnight by first defrosting it the safest way – namely in the refrigerator. It's true this takes more time, but you're far less likely to have any bacterial growth. It takes one day of thawing for each 4-5 pounds of breast.

Note that if you're only cooking a breast, some people say you can put it in the oven while it's still frozen and start cooking. Generally, though, the results of freezer-to-oven roasting are not as satisfying and there's a greater risk that you will undercook the meat.

Check here for guidelines on how to thaw a turkey.

2. Don't Stuff It. The second safety tip for when you cook turkey overnight is NOT stuffing it. Most turkey breasts are difficult to stuff because of how they're cut anyway. But you might be tempted to stuff a whole turkey. Don't! Prepare your dressing separately and just add some juices to it when you warm it up. It will be just as tasty!

Check here for some great recipes for turkey stuffing that can be cooked outside of the turkey.

3. Start it High. Third, you can put the turkey in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour before turning down the oven for slow cooking a turkey overnight. This will help kill some potential bacteria.

Find some additional safety tips for slow cooking a turkey here.

My "10-Step Program" for
How to Cook Turkey Overnight

1. Defrost and Rinse. After your turkey is defrosted give it a good rinsing in cool water inside and out. Let it air dry before cooking.

Turkey ROasted in the Oven Overnight

2. Season the Bird. Once it dries it's time to determine how you'll season your turkey. When you cook turkey overnight, the injection method of seasoning is a good idea because it has plenty of time to transfer into the meat. Try a mix of liquid smoke, melted butter (or olive oil), garlic powder, onion powder, celery salt, lemon or orange juice, and a pinch of meat tenderizer. Make sure this gets into different regions of the legs, wings, and breast all over the bird.

You can also find some more recipes for turkey marinade injections (including how to inject them) here.

3. Pan it. Next move your turkey or turkey breast into a low roasting pan with a rack (the rack keeps your turkey out of the juices and also helps with air circulation so the bird cooks evenly). Pour some chicken stock or white wine (or a combo) in the bottom of the pan. You will use the stock mixed with the drippings for basting and making wonderful gravy later.

4. Tent the Bird. Fashion a tent out of aluminum foil and place it loosely over the breast of the turkey. This keeps moisture inside and protects the skin from getting over-done.

5. Start High. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pop the bird in and start him cooking at that temperature for the first hour or so.

6. Cook Turkey Overnight. Turn down your oven to just under 200 degrees and cook the turkey overnight. A twelve pound turkey unstuffed will take about 7 hours to cook through. Use a meat thermometer ( like this electronic one) to make sure the deepest part of the breast reaches at least 165 degrees F.

7. Crisp the Skin. If you wake up in the morning and the bird isn't done yet, you can turn up the temperature and remove the aluminum tent. This will give you some time to baste the skin and get it deliciously browned. Which is just a good idea anyway! It's best to leave time to do this either way.

8. Rest. Not you... the turkey! Having been up all night your turkey will be tired and needs to rest for 20-30 minutes before you carve into it.

9. Make the Gravy. While the turkey is resting, use the drippings to make a homemade turkey gravy (I've got some great recipes for gravy here).

10. Carve and Serve! Carve your rested turkey with a sharp knife or electric carving knife. Or learn all about carving a turkey right here! Note that if you prefer you can wait to carve the turkey until just before you serve dinner but try to avoid microwaving the meat – it makes it rubbery.

Serve your gorgeous turkey with all your family's favorite side dishes (I've got plenty of recipes for those on my Thanksgiving dinner page, including stuffings, sweet potatoes, and more). And don't forget the pumpkin pie!

In Summary...

Many people swear that they can cook turkey overnight safely and that it comes out succulent every time. Just remember the cautions presented at the outset of this article if you're going to try this method. And get ready for a tender, juicy, wonderful Thanksgiving turkey (or Christmas or whenever turkey!) that will melt in your mouth.

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Free Holiday Turkey Recipe Guide to How to Cook a Turkey

If it's a fat bird with a beard (no, I don't mean your Aunt Marjorie), we can help you cook it. Click on the icon above or click here to get started with recipes and tips on how to cook a turkey for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any time of year.

Coming Up...

Hippity, Hoppity,
Easter's on its Way

The date for Easter falls on April 20th this year!

Take a look at Easter Dinner and Party Planning for recipes, edd dye tips, assembling Easter baskets, and more!

And plan to make this adorable...

It's so cute, it may be the best thing you do this Easter.


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After all, what better way to pass on your knowledge than to share it with other hosts and hostesses?

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