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Best Thanksgiving & Holiday Roast Turkey (with Make-Ahead Instructions!)

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I once had to make Thanksgiving dinner for 23 people at my house….with one small oven. I knew I had to come up with a plan because no way did I have enough room in my oven for 2 turkeys and umpteen side dishes!

Besides making the gravy and mashing mountains of potatoes until your arms fall off at the last minute, the other worst part of getting the dinner to the table, is trying to let the turkey rest then get it all carved!!

Kids are fussing and fighting, babies crying, dinner’s already half an hour late, people are starting to hover, impatient mother-in-laws are smirking and looking at their watches with Grinch-like evil grins sneering with glee, the Uncles are way past their alcohol intake limitations and now rolling around in the front yard, and 3 TV’s are blasting 2 different football games, and a parade that no one’s watching.





I’m in the kitchen wielding a still running electric knife left on HIGH over my head, running in place cartoon-style, slipping and sliding all over the now greasy kitchen floor because I’m trying to carve 2 massive turkeys with juices overflowing the carving board, pooling on the counter, and now running down the fronts of the cabinets and all over the floor! If this sounds like your house too, help is here!!  

Breathe in…breathe out…and pour yourself a nice glass of wine. 😉

More than 20 years ago, I started roasting my turkey(s) the day before. And I will never go back! Back to the horrific mess and lengthy carving time, that by the time you get it all carved, the first half is already starting to dry out and get cold.

You with me on this yet?

Roast the day before, carve a little at a time, layering the slices into a crockpot, covering each layer with chicken broth and small pieces of butter, until all of the meat is carved and picked clean from the bone.

Refrigerate overnight, then warm on LOW the next day, (Thanksgiving day), until heated through. WA-LAH!!





No mess, the carcass is long gone and taken to the trash, and the turkey….oh…my…gawd….the turkey!!

It’s the most moist, juicy, tender, delicious, and buttery turkey that you’ve ever, ever tasted!  

Heavenly. Simply heavenly.


The only thing you lose is the “Wow!” factor of taking it out of the oven that lasts all of about 20 seconds.

Then there’s 30 minutes of carving, carving, rushing, and more carving. The house will still smell like turkey, so why not, right?!

For me, it’s the only sensible, practical way to go. Not to mention that it even tastes better this way, too! 



turkey 2



And the second stress that’s eliminated, is the fact that you can also make the gravy, (and even the mashed potatoes!), ahead, too! Gravy is always a bit thicker the next day, so before serving, just get a ladle of that wonderful broth from the crockpot and whisk it in a little at a time to thin to your desired consistency!

*I’ll provide my recipe for FAIL PROOF homemade turkey gravy tomorrow, and my own make-ahead mashed potatoes on Wednesday! (*These recipes are now posted!)





I now make and prepare every single dish ahead of time and I can finally enjoy my company, the football games, a couple of beers and my sanity every holiday, too! Everything goes smooth as silk, dinner’s never late, and the atmosphere is relaxed, fun and enjoyable as holidays should be.

All of the side dishes get popped into the oven the day of to bake, and the house smells the same as if I had baked the turkey that day. *Note that, I don’t put my stuffing in my turkey. That also gets baked in it’s own dish the day of. But if you insist on baking it inside your turkey, you can most certainly do this, then just transfer it to a dish or small crockpot and rewarm it as well the next day.





What’s also nice, as if all of this isn’t enough, is that the 10 thousand bowls, spoons, spatulas, knives, cutting boards, measuring spoons, etc., etc., are all packed into the dishwasher and there will be almost no dirty dishes piled up to the ceiling the day of, either! Along with tossing all of the kitchen towels into the washer to boot!

So don’t be skeptical, pre-bake your turkey, too, and free up your oven for all of those pre-prepared, ready-to-bake dishes! The turkey(s) can even be put into 2 smaller crockpots to separate the white and dark meat if you like.

That way it’s easier for people get to and they don’t wreck all of the white meat slices searching for the dark meat. If serving casually, just leave it in the crockpots as no one seems to mind and buffet-style is always enjoyed.


You can also serve this formally, too. Once heated, when ready to serve, just simply sneak off to the kitchen, turn the electric knife off and on a few times while sipping your holiday drink, splatter a tiny bit of turkey broth on your blouse or apron, toss a little piece of turkey in your hair, spritz your brows, transfer meat to a pretty platter with tongs, and emerge from the kitchen as though you had just carved it! No one will be the wiser!! Easy-peasy. 😉

I hope you find this post helpful and it makes your Thanksgiving Day, or upcoming holiday go much smoother, and you, too, get to enjoy your guests instead of spending all of your time fretting ‘n sweating in the kitchen! Happy Holidays all, and to all a great party! 😉 🙂





*For a TON of Thanksgiving help, please click here for my “75 Ways to Survive Thanksgiving!” post!





1 whole turkey or turkey breast, thawed, bag of innards removed, rinsed with cold water and patted dry

1 stick real butter, softened and cut up, optional

2-3 Tbl. olive, canola or vegetable oil to oil outside of whole bird or turkey breast

4 tsp. seasoning salt

1 1/2 – 2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper

2 tsp. garlic powder

4 tsp. dried thyme, crushed with fingers and thumb to release flavor

2-4 tsp. paprika, for color and to taste, sprinkle finely and evenly

2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning

4 cups + water for bottom of roaster

one sheet of foil to tent once skin is to desired doneness


Extra Make-Ahead Ingredients:

1 1/2 – 2 (32. oz.) boxes chicken or turkey broth

1/2 – 1 stick butter



Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Pre-prepare turkey. (*Remove inside bag, rinse with cold water, and pat dry inside and out.)

Starting from open breast end, carefully separate skin from the meat all the way back including the legs. Place pieces of butter underneath skin evenly. Smooth skin back down nicely. (This step can be eliminated, but it really keeps the meat extra moist and buttery.)

Oil turkey well, and season inside and out with all or as much of the seasonings  as needed or desired including the top and bottom. *I do the inside first, then the bottom, turn over and do the top. 

Carefully place onto rack in roasting pan. Fill bottom with about 4 cups water. (Yes, do this.) Tuck wings underneath and tie legs together. Cover the ends of the legs with a little foil covering just the skinny part to protect the meat from getting too done and dry there. 

Pop into preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes per pound. 

I only bast about 3 times is all and don’t baste until after the first hour to let the skin get a head start and the herbs and spices set. If you baste too early or too much, you’re just rinsing off all of the seasonings. 

Watch bottom of pan and add more water as necessary because you will need 1 1/2 cups of this for the gravy! Don’t let it all evaporate and scorch. *Also, don’t line your pan with foil. The water will keep it easy to clean and you want to whisk all of those bits off of the bottom for the gravy. 

When skin gets to desired doneness and is deep golden and browning, remove foil from legs and tent top with foil. It will keep it this color until completely done. 

When done, remove from oven and let rest at least an hour. Then start carving.

*For make-ahead turkey:

In large crock pot add a little chicken or turkey broth to bottom. Add a nice layer (double) of the cooked meat evenly across the bottom. *Separate white and dark into 2 crockpots if desired. Cover with broth and dot with a little butter. Start next layer, repeat and keep layering with meat, broth  to cover, and dots of butter until all meat has been removed from carcass. End with broth to cover and a bit of butter. Cover and refrigerate.

About 3 hours before dinner, remove and turn crockpot on high for about 30-45 minutes to get the chill out and get it going. Then switch to LOW heat. It takes about 3 hours for a large oval crockpot to get heated throughout. *You can even remove an extra hour before (4 total) and let it just sit on the counter for an hour before turning it on. 1 hour will not let it spoil. It will still be very cold in the crock. 

Once all of turkey has been eaten, be sure to save and freeze all of that delicious, heavenly broth for more gravies, soups, or freeze in ice cube trays for smaller amounts needed for sauces and other recipes! 




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Angie D

Monday 23rd of December 2019

I don’t have a roasting pan. Can I use my electric turkey roaster? Are there any changes to recipe when using an electric turkey roaster? Thank you

Laura S

Friday 29th of November 2019

You have transformed my life with your fabulous idea of roasting the turkey the day before. Removes all the stress from Thanksgiving day. The other real plus of your method is getting the cleanup, and leftover storage done the day before. You are a genius. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sunday 24th of November 2019

I am baking tonight!!! So excited


Sunday 17th of November 2019

what about the skin? How do you keep it crispy?


Sunday 17th of November 2019

The skin does not stay crispy, Jess. But you can put it in a baking dish and cover it *without* any liquid or butter, and rewarm it the next day in the oven if that helps! :)


Thursday 23rd of November 2017

Made the turkey this way for the third year in a row. Turns out perfectly succulent and amazingly seasoned every time!! THANK YOU!!