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Dec 12, 2012 06:41 AM

Recommendations for store-bought holiday meal - precooked vs ready to cook turkey

We are ordering a store bought holiday meal from Whole Foods as we have in many years past. We really want to keep it low key and so were initially going to buy a precooked turkey which requires reheating or a ready to cook turkey. I wouldn't mind the ready to cook turkey it might be moister but I've never made a turkey before and wouldn't want to screw it up vs the alternative of moistening of the meat from the precooked bird perhaps by cutting slices and heating them in the oven with gravy. What do you think would be best?

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  1. Honestly, I really don't think this would be the time for you to learn how to cook a turkey.. not on a holiday. Cooking a turkey isn't really all that hard, but deciding when it's cooked properly, that is, not too dry or not too raw, might be really tough the first time. You want the holiday to be low key, as you said, and I assume that means you want it to be trouble-free and relaxing, I'd go with the reheated one.

    7 Replies
    1. re: knitterbetty

      Great thanks. The instructions are to reheat in an oven covered for 2 hours. I assume that would be enough time to heat through?

      1. re: fldhkybnva

        At what temperature for 2 hours?

        I would at least keep a close eye on the internal temp to make sure it doesn't dry out (perhaps a little water or wine in the pan could help keep it from drying out?). Maybe the last 15 mins or so, you can remove the covering and crank up the heat to get that brown skin back. I would assume that covering for 2 hours in an oven may make the skin kinda flabby.

        1. re: Novelli

          Oops sorry, 350. What internal temp would you recommend?

          1. re: fldhkybnva

            I'd say make sure it doesn't exceed 150 internally (although it may be difficult as the outter area may get to 150, but inside possibly not). Maybe an hour and a half covered, and the last 15-20 mins uncovered?

            All I'm really saying is to keep a close eye on it to make sure it doesn't dry out. Taste, taste, taste throughout the reheating process.

            1. re: Novelli

              Would you consider preslicing and heating up that way?

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                I'm not Novelli, but if this is your first time preparing a turkey you should absolutely consider pre-carving before reheating. Slicing cold meat is always easier, and by arranging the meat in a single layer in the pan it will reheat much more quickly and evenly. Just cover with foil, and slowly bring it up to 130 - 140 degrees.

                If you have some good stock on hand you can even pour some in the pan before the meat goes in, giving the dryer white meat a chance to reabsorb some moisture.

                1. re: RealMenJulienne

                  Great, sounds like a plan. What temperature oven would you recommend? Ideally I'd like to do 350 as I'll have other sides to warm up. I will have gravy so perhaps I can ladle some of that in the bottom of the pan.

    2. Well, it seems the diners are split and a majority would prefer a ready to cook vs a precooked turkey. The ready to cook turkey is oven ready turkey rubbed with herb butter and resting on mire poix in a roasting pan. The instructions they provide are to cover the breasts with aluminum foil, roast at 450 for 30 minutes, reduce heat to 325 and roast 3hrs15 min-4 hrs (for a medium 17 lb turkey), check temperature with 30 minutes left and measure temp in the thickest part of the thigh until between 150-165F, rest 20-30 minutes. Would this be that difficult for a first timer? It's not a very fancy dinner, but a big spread for a bunch of friends and close relatives in the area so I don't think anyone has expects any perfection though of course don't want to serve an inedible product.

      3 Replies
      1. re: fldhkybnva

        Difficult? No, not really. I've made many turkeys and honestly, they have not ever turned out inedible--not even the first one.
        The cooking time in the instructions seems a little on the long side, especially if it is not stuffed, so I would start checking the temp at the 3 hour mark just to be sure.
        And if you do not already have one, I highly recommend an oven thermometer--you don't want to find out that your oven is running hot on the day you cook the bird!

        1. re: iluvcookies

          OK, I think I will go with the ready to cook vs the precooked as it will take the same amount of time probably and ready to cook would probably taste a smidge better even if I royally screwed up. Yup, I have a handy dandy oven thermometer ready to go. I made a quick call to a few relatives and they recommended 400F for 45min-1 hour, then lower to 325F with thermometer in and basting every 30 minutes or so until the thigh is 160F, then rest tented for 30 minutes.

          1. re: fldhkybnva

            I've used pre-cooked turkeys before, when I couldn't get raw ones. I thawed it, sliced it, and heated it in the oven, covered with a bit of foil for the first while, to keep it from drying out.

            The difference between cooking a regular turkey and a ready to cook turkey is pretty minimal, if you aren't stuffing the turkey. Neither is particularly difficult, but if you haven't done it before, you may find that the time the turkey is finished, and the time you planned to eat differ by an hour or more (I've experienced up to a two hour delay when at someone else's house).

            If you really want low-key on the day, I'd actually suggest roasting the turkey either the day before, or getting it cooking first thing Christmas day. Carve it, arrange the slices on a tray, and reheat just before dinner. Then you get fresh cooked turkey and a predictable timetable.

            As an aside - some of the reasons why turkeys can vary in how long they take to cook can depend on the peculiarities of your oven, the temperature of the bird when it goes in the oven, and the quantity of stuffing. A bird that goes directly from the fridge to the oven will take longer than one that's at room temperature, and a stuffed bird takes longer than an unstuffed one.

      2. We've had 2 already cooked turkeys from Whole Foods and both have been great, very moist. The most recent one was smoked (this specific WF store has a huge walk-in smoker so they do lots of smoked foods to order).

        Each time I heated the turkey in a cooking bag, which was excellent for minimizing the smoke wafting through the house.

        And they have excellent gravy, too. We liked their mushroom gravy better than the turkey gravy, so I mixed the two together and it was perfect.

        I think you mentioned having friends and neighbors over, so my advice would be pre-cooked, it's much nicer to spend time with friends and not have the nagging concern over unexpected first-time turkey cooking "issues".

        1 Reply
        1. re: axial

          Absolutely, I had both the mushroom and turkey gravy at Thanksgiving and I abandoned the turkey gravy after 1 spoonful, the mushroom gravy was much too delicious. I bought a few more containers for leftovers over the weekend as well.