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Turkeys are big birds that provide a lot of meat when smoked. It’s not a wonder that you’ll collect leftovers after a sumptuous afternoon meal or dinner. The main issue, however, is how to store and reheat them without altering the meat’s original softness or juiciness.
Leftover turkey legs tend to lose moisture and may not taste as good as they did during the first serving. Is there a way to heat them without drying them out? The answer is yes! With the right proportions of gravy, water, butter, or stock, you can reheat your leftover turkey legs under a 300° F temperature for a period of 30 to 45 minutes. To make the food more tender, this process should be slow, under a low heat range.
How to Reheat Turkey and Keep it Juicy
The main difference between freshly smoked meat and reheated leftovers of the same is the texture and juiciness absent in the latter, on most occasions. This happens if the right storage and reheating measures are not taken before or during the reheating process.
Here are some tricks you can adopt to retain your turkey legs smoothness when preparing leftovers:
Store it Right
Correct storage of any type of food is the main determinant of how it tastes after cooking or reheating. For leftover turkey, you have to be careful when storing them for later use because the outer layer tends to dry out very fast. This occurrence is often recorded if the meat was left uncovered during refrigeration, which causes it to lose its moisture.
After everyone has had enough of the food, place the remaining amount on a plate, cover it and place it separately from other raw meats.
If you’re using a freezer for storage, your best bet for locking in the turkey legs’ moisture and flavors are good wraps. Aluminum foil works similarly but you have to wrap up your food well enough to avoid any penetration of air. This prevents the cooked pieces of poultry from getting freezer burns or getting their color, texture, and deliciousness affected by temperature changes.
Add Some Liquid
As mentioned earlier, the original moisture of leftover turkey legs can be revived through the addition of liquids such as stock, water, and gravy. If you had injected or rubbed the meat with seasoning before cooking it the first time, a similar mixture may be required to re-awaken the flavors that could have been lost along the way.
But, if you are in a hurry to fix a meal and have no time to prepare the listed turkey moisteners, add cooking oil or butter in the reheating pan and proceed with the process. It works best under low temperatures and when the pan is covered, to lock in the juices.
Cover While Reheating
The trick works wonders while reheating the leftover turkey. The essence of covering is to prevent any moisture from escaping from the reheating pan.
If you used a liquid at the beginning of this process, it is likely to evaporate as the temperature rises. This counters the entire reason for adding the water, gravy, or stock into the dish, something you wouldn’t want to happen to your efforts.
Find a tight-fitting lid and cover the pan in which the mixture is reheating. This also creates an even distribution of both the internal and external temperatures of your dish. Unless you’re in a hurry, let your mixture heat slowly under the airtight lid to the desired temperature.
Don’t Overheat It
Due to the presence of multiple connective tissues in turkey legs, heating them at an extremely high temperature or for a prolonged time makes them tougher.
Whichever method you prefer to reheat your leftovers, let the dish warm up under low, consistent temperatures.
It helps the connective tissues loosen up, tenderize and absorb the flavors at a considerable pace.
Most Recommended Methods to Reheat Turkey Legs
The success of the turkey legs reheating process depends on many factors. One of them is the method that you choose to follow as well as your ability to follow the instructions provided.
If you have enough time for experiments, you can use different methods at the same time, compare the results and adopt the one that brings out the best.
For juicy and evenly reheated turkey legs, set low temperatures on whichever cooking equipment you opt for reheating.
Reheating Turkey Legs in an Oven
Reheating your leftovers in the oven requires some patience as it may take quite some time. The results, however, are worth the effort and time.
Steps to follow when using an oven to reheat turkey legs
- Set your oven temperature between 305° F and 355° F and preheat it as you prepare the leftovers for the process.
- Remove meat from the freezer or refrigerator and leave it to attain room temperature.
- Take a dish that’s fit for use in the oven and add the turkey legs inside it.
- Splash some water, stock, or gravy over the dish. To make it more savory, you can add oil or butter to the mixture and spread it evenly over the meat.
- Use aluminum foil to cover the food. Instead of reheating them in an oven dish, you can directly place them on the grill after wrapping them up in airtight foil.
- Let the leftover legs reheat for 35 to 50 minutes. An internal temperature of 165° F is also an indication that the food is ready for consumption.
Reheating Turkey Legs on a Stovetop
After the oven, the stovetop is the second most suitable cooking equipment for reheating leftover turkey.
Follow these steps to achieve evenly reheated and tender turkey legs:
- Take the meat out of the refrigerator and let it acquire room temperature.
- Take your flat-bottomed cooking pan and add the leftovers to it.
- Add gravy, stock, or water in the pan until it reaches approximately 1 cm high.
- Place a lid on the pan.
- Let it simmer for 5 to 10 minutes under a medium temperature until the heat is evenly distributed.
To add a crispy touch to your reheated turkey legs, pass them through hot oil. Don’t leave them there for too long to avoid burning them or drying them out.
Reheating Turkey Legs in the Microwave
Reheating your leftover turkey legs in a microwave may not be the most recommended way to do it, but it works well when the options are limited.
To make it worthwhile, follow this procedure:
- Cut the meat into smaller portions to allow an even distribution of heat. The legs may lose their appealing appearance but that’s more bearable in comparison to eating cold pieces.
- Avoid piling the meat on the heating container and arrange them evenly on it.
- Sprinkle a few tablespoons of your desired liquid. Oil or butter is also a good alternative.
- Cover the heating container with a microwave-friendly wrap.
- Set the range at medium and take 1 minute for each pound of turkey legs.
How to Make Stew with Leftover Turkey
Turning your reheated turkey legs into a full dish is possible. To achieve that, add the vegetables of your choice into a cooker in which you have already placed the turkey.
You can use celery, onions, pepper, carrots, potatoes, or other vegetables. To add to the flavors, you can top up the dish with some seasoning, broth, and flour. Leave it to simmer for some hours and there! You have your stew.
Guide on Reheating Smoked Turkey Legs
Smoked turkey legs can be homemade or prepackaged from the store. Reheat them in an oven by following the procedure outlined earlier, only that you’ll use two hours instead of a few minutes this time.
The internal temperature should range between 140°F and 165°F.
Guide on Reheating Fried Turkey Legs
To reheat fried turkey legs, you should:
- Set a 250° F temperature on your oven and let it preheat.
- Spread the legs on an oven pan or baking sheet. You don’t have to cover them.
- Let them bake for 25 to 30 minutes before serving.
How to Reheat Frozen Turkey
Refrigerated turkey can take 3 or 4 days before it’s deemed unfit for consumption. When stored in a freezer, it can last for up to 3 months.
Before cooking frozen meat, you have to thaw it and wait until it acquires room temperature before cooking or reheating.
If you had stored your turkey in the freezer, the most recommended way to defrost it is by putting it in the refrigerator then taking it out to achieve room temperature. After that, you can follow any of the heating methods mentioned earlier in this context.
Can I Reheat Turkey Legs More than Once?
To remain as close to the original taste as possible, it’s advisable to reheat your turkey legs only once. This prevents the bacterial contamination that is likely to occur every time you store and reheat cooked meat.
Instead of reheating multiple times, you can separate the meat and store some of it in the freezer, retrieving it only when necessary.
A Turkey is a big bird that’s likely to provide a lot of meat. Leftovers are usually inevitable, especially in instances where you expected a larger gathering but some people didn’t show up or you deliberately cooked more than enough food.
Instead of throwing away the remainders, you can store them well and save yourself the stress of preparing turkey legs from scratch. While reheating, ensure that the meat is well moisturized, covered, and set at the right temperature.
Related: How to Reheat a Smoked Turkey – The Ultimate Guide