How long to rest a cooked turkey before carving? - Resto NYC (2023)

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and one of the highlights of this festive occasion is the delicious turkey feast. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a first-time turkey roaster, it is vital to know how to rest a cooked turkey before carving. This essential step ensures that the turkey is juicy, tender, and flavorful, making it more enjoyable for everyone at the table.

In this blog post, we will dive deeper into the art of resting cooked turkeys and provide tips on how long to rest them for optimum results.

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Why Resting Cooked Turkey is Important

Resting a cooked turkey is all about giving it time for the juices to redistribute, creating a tender, moist, and flavorful masterpiece. When you cook any meat, especially turkey, the heat forces the juices to the center of the bird. Cutting it too soon will lead to a dry, bland piece of meat. By giving it time to rest after cooking, the heat naturally draws the juices back into the muscle fiber, making it juicier and easier to carve.

Furthermore, it is essential to keep in mind that when you take your turkey out of the oven, the temperature is not even throughout. The outer layers will be significantly hotter than the center of the bird. Resting the turkey for a while helps to even out the temperature, making it easier to carve and also ensures that the turkey can be served at its optimum temperature.

How Long to Rest a Cooked Turkey Before Carving

So how long should you rest your cooked turkey before carving? Most experts recommend resting the turkey for at least 30 minutes. However, the ideal resting time depends on the size of the bird. A rule of thumb is to rest your turkey for 15-20 minutes per pound.

For instance, a 12-pound turkey needs to rest for about 2 to 2 and a half hours before carving. Meanwhile, a 20-pound turkey can take up to 4 hours to rest. It is important to note that the turkey must be covered with foil or a clean towel during the resting period to keep it warm.

Tips for Resting Cooked Turkey

To help you get the most out of your turkey, below are some additional tips that you can consider when resting your cooked turkey:

1. Leave the Stuffing in the Turkey While it Rests

If you’ve cooked your turkey with stuffing inside, do not take it out yet. Leaving the stuffing in the bird while it rests is an excellent way to keep it warm, and it will absorb the delicious juices that rose to the top of the turkey.

2. Cover Your Turkey with Foil

Covering the turkey with foil during the resting period will keep it warm and moist without making the skin too soggy. Avoid wrapping the bird too tightly with foil as this may create excess steam, making the skin soggy.

3. Carve the Turkey After it is Rested

Always carve the turkey after it remains for the recommended time. Once you place it on a cutting board, cut the legs and wings first before slicing the breast meat.

4. Keep the Turkey Juice

Pour any turkey juice that has collected on the cutting board back onto the meat before serving. This will enhance the flavor and ensure that the meat is juicy and moist.

5. Use a Proper Carving Knife

Using a proper carving knife is ideal when slicing your turkey. Make sure the knife is sharp and slice the meat with a gentle sawing motion. This will ensure that your turkey is not only aesthetically pleasing but also delicious.


In conclusion, resting a cooked turkey before carving is an essential step to ensure that your turkey is juicy, moist, and flavorful. Experts recommend resting your bird for at least 30 minutes or 15-20 minutes per pound of turkey. Remember, always cover your turkey, leave the stuffing inside while it rests, and use a proper carving knife when you start slicing. By following these simple tips, your turkey feast will be one to remember.


Can a turkey sit for 2 hours before carving?

Yes, a turkey can sit for up to two hours after it has been cooked and before it is ready to be carved. In fact, allowing the turkey to rest before carving is actually a crucial step in ensuring that the meat is tender, juicy, and flavorful.

When a turkey is cooked, the heat causes the juices and moisture inside the bird to move towards the outer edges. If you were to carve the turkey immediately after it has been roasted, all of those juices would end up on your cutting board instead of remaining inside the meat where they belong. This can result in dry, tough turkey meat that no one wants to eat.

By allowing the turkey to rest for a period of time before carving, you give the juices a chance to redistribute throughout the meat. As the temperature of the turkey begins to drop, the juices and moisture will move back towards the center of the bird, resulting in meat that is moist, tender, and packed with flavor.

To let your turkey rest properly, it’s important to remove it from the oven when it reaches the desired internal temperature (165 degrees Fahrenheit for the thickest part of the bird) and tent it loosely with foil. This will keep the heat in while allowing the turkey to cool slightly. The size of your bird will determine how long you should let it rest, with larger birds requiring more time. A turkey weighing between 4 and 6 kilograms should rest for about 1.5 hours, while a larger turkey in the 6 to 10 kilogram range can rest for up to 2 hours.

Allowing your turkey to rest for a couple of hours before carving is a critical step in ensuring that your bird is both tender and flavorful. Take the time to let your turkey rest properly, and you’ll be rewarded with a delicious and impressive centerpiece for your holiday meal.

Can you carve a turkey the day after cooking?

Yes, you can carve a turkey the day after cooking. In fact, carving the turkey in advance can be a great strategy for a stress-free holiday meal.

To do this, you will need to cook the turkey a day or two in advance and then let it cool completely. Once it is cool, you can store it in the refrigerator until the day you plan to serve it.

When it is time to carve the turkey, take the bird out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for about an hour. This will allow the turkey to be more tender and easier to carve.

To carve the turkey, start by removing the wings and drumsticks with a sharp knife. Then, remove the breasts by slicing them off the bone, and then cut the meat into slices. Finally, remove the thighs by cutting alongside the bone and then slice the meat.

To store the carved turkey, place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. When you are ready, simply reheat the turkey in the oven or microwave and serve.

Carving a turkey the day after cooking is a great way to save time and reduce stress on the day of your holiday meal. With a little bit of preparation, you can have a delicious turkey ready to serve with minimal effort on the big day.

Can you let a turkey rest too long?

Resting a turkey after cooking is an important step in the process to allow the juices to redistribute in the meat and keep it moist and tender. However, as with anything in life, too much of something can be a bad thing. So the question is, can you let a turkey rest for too long?

The short answer is yes. If you let the turkey rest for too long, it’s possible for the meat to cool down and lose its optimal serving temperature. Especially, if you’re cooking a smaller bird, and you let it rest for more than an hour, the meat can cool down quite a bit. This isn’t good news if you were hoping to serve the turkey piping hot with an excellent crispy skin without having to reheat it.

Another factor to consider is the room temperature where the bird is resting. If the temperature is too cold, (i.e. leaving it outside the fridge) the meat will cool down faster, and it will lose the optimal temperature even faster. On the other hand, if you leave it in a place that is too hot, the meat may begin to spoil.

So, what is the ideal rest time for a turkey? That depends on the size of the bird. For example, a smaller bird can rest for up to thirty minutes while larger birds can rest for longer, up to an hour. After that time, you should consider reheating it in the oven or microwave but be aware that the reheated turkey may not be as juicy and tender as the freshly cooked one.

Yes, you can let a turkey rest for too long. Especially, if you don’t pay attention to the room temperature or the size of the bird, you may end up with a lukewarm turkey. The bottom line is to find the optimal resting time that allows the bird to retain its heat while also letting the juices redistribute for maximum flavor and tenderness.

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