(KSNF/KODE) — Some may argue that the best part of the holiday season is the Thanksgiving leftovers.
The bountiful Thanksgiving dinner can make for many meals to follow. Just from the main course of turkey, a large variety of dishes can be created with the leftover meat. And a simple turkey sandwich or turkey soup isn’t your only after-Thanksgiving option. You’ll find the Thanksgiving leftovers here to be anything but boring.
WHY REUSE TURKEY LEFTOVERS?
Leftover turkey recipes save time, thanks to having pre-cooked turkey on hand, as well as other Thanksgiving leftovers, such as mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, and other casserole dishes. So let the hard work of preparing that Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing pay off with easy recipes in the days after your holiday feast.
Using your turkey meat in a variety of leftover turkey recipes allows for better nutrition — since you’ll be using additional ingredients in your dishes that provide vitamins and minerals to complement the benefits of your leftover turkey. For example, turkey pot pie, turkey salad, turkey tetrazzini and turkey casserole recipes all incorporate various vegetables, such as green beans, mushrooms, frozen peas, sweet potatoes and more, to turn your leftover turkey into an easy-to-make meal.
HOW LONG TO TURKEY LEFTOVERS LAST IN THE FRIDGE?
It’s best to keep your cooked turkey in the fridge for only three or four days. After that, you’ll need to freeze it or dispose of it — or turn it into an amazing leftover turkey casserole, turkey pot pie, or other turkey recipe. Refrigerating your leftovers is a great way to give your whole family easy access to comfort food. Just be sure to plan out your bakes — such as turkey tetrazzini, stir fry and leftover turkey casserole — before your meat needs to be moved. Cubing or shredding your turkey meat before freezing is a good way to save time when you want to make a turkey casserole recipe later.
CAN TURKEY LEFTOVERS BE FROZEN?
Not only can you freeze your leftover turkey meat, you can freeze the entire bird, bones and all, for up to six months! This is a great way to free up space in your refrigerator for leftovers that don’t freeze well, like those mashed potatoes and gravy. Freezing the entire turkey is a good idea if you are planning a post-holiday soup. Otherwise, you’ll thank yourself later if you slice, cube, or shred the meat now and freeze it in the portions needed for future turkey recipes.
Baking your turkey into a casserole first and then freezing it saves even more time and energy because it’s ready to eat once you heat it up, versus only freezing the leftover turkey and still needing to consider what you’ll be eating with it.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO REHEAT LEFTOVER TURKEY?
The best way to heat leftover turkey is whatever is most convenient for you. Turkey reheats well for a day-after the Thanksgiving meal or year-round (versus something like a potato dish that tastes best fresh). For many, the go-to method is reheating turkey in the microwave.
If you have a leftover turkey still in a pan, you could cover it with foil and bake it in the oven to reheat. Depending on how you’re using your leftovers, you could also heat them in a large saucepan on the stovetop over medium-high heat.
Keep in mind that leftover turkey served cold is also a convenient and delicious way to enjoy it (such as turkey salad or leftover turkey sandwiches).
HOW DO YOU MAKE LEFTOVER TURKEY MOIST?
No one wants to eat dry, bland meat. The best way to ensure your leftover turkey is flavorful and moist (aside from the initial cooking method) is to use it in an easy turkey casserole, pot pie, soup, or another recipe. This allows other moisture to be added, additional flavors to be used, and the leftover turkey to pair with other delicious ingredients.
If you want to eat leftover turkey plain and still ensure it is moist, seal it in an airtight container before refrigerating, and then add a tablespoon of water to the meat before reheating it in the microwave. You can also do this if heating in the oven: add about a tablespoon of water for every cup of turkey to rehydrate it.