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Reheating Cooked Turkey and Ham

New HAM instructions at the end of the page.

Serving many people hot meats in a short time requires a reheating method that is both safe and effective, producing a hot, moist meat. The temperature must be measured with a thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of the product or between slices.

Safe reheating starts with safe storage

Turkey can be cooked ahead only if it can be quickly cooled and properly stored. The maximum time from completion of cooking to chilled to 40 degrees in refrigerator storage, including deboning, slicing, etc., should be 2 hours. Time frames for cooked turkey storage and use:
  • The outside limit for refrigerator storage for cooked turkey meat is 72 hours from the time it comes out of the oven. Longer than that, it MUST be frozen, preferably within 2 hours of roasting.
  • Within two hours after roasting, remove any stuffing from turkey and carve the meat off the bones. Then store covered or wrapped, in refrigerator or freezer. Do NOT store whole turkeys cooked. They Do not chill quickly enough or thoroughly enough to be safe.
  • Wrap turkey slices and stuffing separately. Refrigerate immediately and use within three days.
  • If reheating turkey, reheat only once, to a measured temperature of 165 or higher. Turkey is tastier if reheated in a recipe that adds moisture, such as in broth or gravy, pot pies, BBQ or chili.
  • Use refrigerated gravy within three days. Before serving, bring to a full boil when reheating.
  • Freeze leftover turkey or stuffing within 24 hours of roasting for best quality if you plan to store them for over 3 days. Wrap in heavy foil, freezer wrap or place in freezer container. Stuffing tastes best if used within one month and cooked turkey within two months.

    Rapid Cooling of Cooked Turkey Meat

    The speed of cooling depends on a number of factors, such as the size of the refrigerator, its maximum air movement and the amount of food in the refrigerator. So, it's important for you to figure out the capabilities of your own equipment. You want to get the turkey below 40% withing 2 hours after it comes out of the oven.
    • Make sure all utensils and working surfaces are clean and sanitized.
    • Remove meat from bone, with clean, sanitized hands or wearing clean, disposable food handling gloves. NEVER handle raw poultry and cooked poultry at the same time or on the same cutting surface.
    • Slice roasts, rolls and large pieces of meat into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices, so they will cool more quickly.
    • Set pan that will hold the turkey into a second pan, filled with ice.
    • "Shingle" slices or pieces of turkey in chilled, sanitized, shallow pans.
    • Fill pans no more than 1-inch deep with turkey.
    • Move each pan UNCOVERED into refrigerator as soon as it is filled.
    • Remember to check temperature of turkey during cooling process.
    • After turkey is cooled, cover tightly with plastic wrap or lid and refrigerate at 35 degrees F to 40 degrees F or freeze.

      Freezing Cooled Turkey Meat

    • Package in small, evenly shaped portions no more than 2 inches thick. This will maintain quality and help freeze more quickly.
    • Use moisture/vapor-resistant wrap, such as freezer paper or heavy-duty aluminum foil to wrap packages or seal containers.
    • Label and date packages.
    • Use dated packages in a rotation of first in, first out.

    Rapid Cooling of Cooked Turkey Broth, Stock or Gravy

    • Pour into shallow containers.
    • Set containers in pans of ice water or running cold water bath.
    • Stir to speed cooling.
    • Check temperature of stock, broth, or gravy during cooling.
    • Cool stock to 40 degrees F. in 2 hours or less.
    • Cover and refrigerate at 35ºF to 40ºF.

    Storage of Cooked Turkey Products

      Refrigerator Storage at 35ºF to 40ºF. Freezer Storage at 0ºF or Below.
    Parts, Slices, Turkey Pieces
    (not covered with gravy or broth)
    1 to 2 days
    1 month
    Parts, Slices, Turkey Pieces (covered with gravy or broth)
    1 to 2 days
    6 months
    Cooked Dishes Containing Turkey
    1 to 2 days
    4 to 6 months
    Gravy, Broth
    1 to 2 days
    2 to 3 months
    Source: USDA

    Hot meat

    Check your local and state regulations for information. For example, some states have specific requirements for the serving temperature of hot foods.

    Turkey cooked and held hot for serving must maintain a continuous temperature of 140 degrees F. from removal from the oven until served. Holding time may be 20 minutes to 1 hour; after that, meat quality begins to deteriorate.

    Turkey cooked from the raw state and then stored in a refrigerator or freezer for future use must be reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. All stuffing must be heated or reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. It must be reheated to this level with no interruption in the cooking or heating process.

    Turkey products purchased fully cooked are either chilled or frozen. To serve these products hot, they must be reheated to an internal temperature of 140 degrees F. If you overheat these commercial products moisture evaporation occurs, which affects the flavor of added salt and seasonings as well as reducing the yield.

    You CANNOT achieve these temperature by heating cold products in a steam table or crock pot or by pouring hot gravy or sauce over cold turkey.

    Turkey always reheats better if covered with fresh turkey broth. Heat the turkey broth to boiling before pouring over the meat to speed up the reheating. Safe methods of reheating foods in the home kitchen are somewhat limited:

    • Reheat turkey with sauce or gravy in covered pans on range top or in open pans in a preheated oven. This method is least preferred due to the amount of time required.
    • Reheat turkey alone or with sauce or gravy in pressure steamer.
    • Reheat stuffing and other accompaniments in open, shallow pans in a preheated 325 degree F. oven. Cover loosely if required to stay moist. It takes about 30 minutes per inch of depth.
    • Heat turkey stock and gravy to boiling- minimum 165 degrees- in pans on range tops or in steam-jacketed kettles/tilt braising pans.

    Reheating Ham

    Reheating already-cooked whole hams is a little tricky because they tend to get dry as they get warm. If you want to reheat carved ham, USDA recommends heating only those slices needed and not the entire ham.

    To reheat a spiral-sliced ham in a conventional oven, cover the entire ham or portion with heavy aluminum foil and heat at 325 F for about 10 minutes per pound.

    Spiral-sliced ham vacuum-sealed at a USDA-inspected plant will exhibit the USDA mark of inspection on the label. These spiral sliced hams should be cooked to an internal temperature of 140 F as measured with a food thermometer. For spiral-sliced hams that have been repackaged in any location, reheat to 165 F. Individual slices may also be warmed in a skillet or microwave.

    Fully cooked hams can also be sold unsliced, If you want to reheat a whole ham, use a preheated oven set no lower than 325 F and, like spiral-sliced hams, heated to an internal temperature of 140 F or 165 as above, as measured with a food thermometer.

    IMPORTANT!!! For fully cooked ham that has been repackaged in any other location or for leftover fully cooked ham, reheat to 165 F.