How long to let a turkey rest for juicy and tender results?

how long to let a turkey rest

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If you love preparing different meats with different cooking methods such as smoking, grilling, or oven roasting, you know resting time is essential. I talk about this a lot in my posts because it’s such an important factor in ensuring juicy and tender meat. If you want to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving or just for a casual barbecuing experience, you are in the right place!

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How long to let a turkey rest?
  • How to rest a turkey?
  • How to reheat turkey leftovers?
  • And more!

How long to let a turkey rest before you carve it?

resting a turkey

There is no exact answer to this question. Because depending on the size of the turkey, 45 minutes of resting time should be enough. You should let it rest more if the size of the turkey is bigger. In the case of a smaller turkey, the resting time can be reduced to around 20 -30  minutes.

Why is it important to let a turkey rest?

The main reason to let a turkey rest is to let the juices redistribute in the meat, making it tender and moist. Also, when you remove the turkey from the heat source, it will continue to cook for a short time, plus it will be too hot to eat anyway, so be patient, and the results will speak for themselves.

What happens if you carve the meat too early?

carving turkey meat

I know a juicy, crispy turkey is tempting to eat right away, but letting the meat rest is an important part of the cooking process. Slicing the turkey too early is a mistake because the juices will run out from the meat, making it less flavorful and drying out faster.

How to rest a turkey?

First of all, check the turkey’s internal temperature; when it reaches 165F, remove it from the heat source. Do this carefully because the turkey will be hot, so make sure to protect your hands. While it rests, resist the impulse to check the flavor by cutting the meat for a small bite. Be patient, and leave the bird untouched for this period.

Should you wrap the turkey?

This is debatable, but the answer depends on your preferences. Some prefer wrapping the turkey while resting; others let it rest uncovered. Both methods have pros and cons. If you choose not to wrap the turkey, the skin will be crispier, while covering it will make the meat tender. Personally, I’m not a big fan of wrapping because I love the crispy skin of it, but the choice is up to you.

How long to rest a turkey breast before carving?

smoked turkey breast

So let’s say you chose to cook only the breast of the turkey; how long should you let it rest? The breast is a drier part of the turkey but still needs proper resting time. Depending on its size, anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes, max should be enough for the best results. Also, when it comes to turkey or chicken breast, remember that drying them out is very easy, so make sure not to overcook them. Use a meat thermometer and check for the internal temperature to ensure it’s perfectly cooked.

Can you let the turkey rest for too long?

As the resting time depends on the size of the turkey, it is possible to let it rest for too long. If it’s a smaller turkey, it will cool down quite a bit, and you don’t want that. Keep in mind that leaving the bird at room temperature for more than two hours is not recommended, according to the USDA.

oven-baked turkey

Also, there are other factors that can affect resting time—the temperature of the room where you’ll leave the turkey to rest. The bird will cool down faster in a colder kitchen, whereas in a warmer place, it will take longer.

How to reheat turkey?

A freshly smoked or oven-roasted turkey tastes amazing, but how can you achieve that great taste the next day if you end up with some leftovers? Well, the most important thing is to reheat it correctly to ensure juicy results. There are different ways to reheat the turkey, such as using the oven, stove, or microwave. Read these tips and tricks you can do to avoid drying out the meat.


Tips and tricks for reheating a turkey

  • Add some liquid: When you reheat the turkey on the stove, for example, the juices can quickly evaporate, and by adding some liquid, you can avoid drying out the meat.
  • Cut to even-sized pieces: Although it’s not the most important thing, cutting the turkey into even-sized pieces will ensure an even heating, plus you won’t dry them out, as they will be heated faster.
  • Cover the turkey while reheating: Covering the turkey when reheating has several advantages, such as a shorter heating time and keeping the moisture in making the meat tender.
  • Check the internal temperature: If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can leave this step out, but if you have one, you can make sure that the turkey is heated through properly if the internal temp reaches 165F
  • Check for signs of spoilage: I would advise always checking leftover turkey before eating, whether it’s relatively fresh or has stayed a few days in the fridge. Use your senses and check the: smell, texture, color, and taste. If the smell is off, sour, or unpleasant, it has a slimy texture, or you notice discoloration on the meat, it’s a clear sign that the meat spoiled. Also, if the appearance and smell of the turkey are all right, but the taste is sour, you should avoid eating it.


I hope you learned everything there is to know about how long to rest a turkey for tender and juicy results. Generally, a 45-minute resting time is okay, but make sure to consider other factors, such as the size of the turkey and the temperature of the room where the bird will rest. Adjust resting time according to these factors, and your meat will be just perfect.


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Tom Wilmer

I'm Tom Wilmer, an award-winning pitmaster and BBQ judge. I share my passion for barbecue through my blog, BBQ Soldiers, offering recipes, tips, and smoker reviews. Let's grill together!

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