Ina Garten's Low-Stress Method For Keeping Turkey Hot On Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the unofficial Holiday of the Home Cook. When Thanksgiving rolls around, shoppers flock to grocery stores nationwide, pour over cookbooks to nail the perfect sweet potato casserole to make sure it's not too sweet — and, perhaps most famously, spend hours in front of the oven sweating over a turkey. In 2018, a CivicScience survey reported that 71% of U.S. adults were stressed about Thanksgiving, and cooking anxiety was the second-biggest stressor. 

According to a study by SWNS Digital, 52% of Americans said they felt pressure to make Thanksgiving perfect in 2021. Butterball even offers an annual "Turkey Talk-Line" that stressed home cooks can call for advice to save their struggling turkeys. (It's been providing the service since 1981 and receives around 4 million calls every holiday season.)

But, according to celebrity chef and television personality Ina Garten, Thanksgiving doesn't have to be as hectic as it may seem. Of the inspiration behind her cookbook "Go-To Dinners," the Barefoot Contessa says, "Cooking during the pandemic got pretty crazy, even for me, so I devised all kinds of ways to get dinner on the table with the least amount of stress." That's why the cookbook is filled with make-ahead recipes, specifically with a stress-free Thanksgiving tip for keeping turkey hot.

Reheat sliced turkey breast in a puddle of gravy

"I like to keep Thanksgiving simple," Ina Garten says (via Williams Sonoma). That's why she makes both the turkey and the gravy ahead of time. "It just so reduces stress," the chef explains in a YouTube video. Once the turkey is cooked and cool enough to handle, she ladles a generous puddle of gravy across the bottom of an oven-proof serving platter or baking dish, slices the turkey, and neatly arranges the turkey slices right on top of the gravy puddle. Then, she simply walks away from it, leaving it at room temperature.

An hour before dinnertime, she pops the entire assembled platter directly into the oven as-is to reheat together. Not only is this technique a convenient time-saver, but the hot puddle of gravy continues to keep the turkey warm long after you take it out of the oven. Plus, says Garten, the sliced turkey absorbs some of the gravy as it reheats, making for a moist mouthful. 

This method is particularly useful if you're making your turkey in the oven on a good old-fashioned roasting pan — which, according to a Tasting Table Exclusive Survey, over half of readers say is the best way to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. If you want to take it up a notch, says Garten, swap out classic mashed potatoes for parsnip purée for an unexpected, elevated take on a holiday tradition.