How to Cook a Turkey Overnight

The very best part of Thanksgiving is sitting down at a table crowded with my family and friends - the worst part is having to cook a big meal in my apartment size oven.

There were many years that I would get up at 6 in the morning to start the turkey – and I would be exhausted by the time we sat to dinner. I began to dread the holiday.

I am a night person and had to come up with a solution. One year my father, Nathan, recommended that I stay up all night and cook. I knew he was joking – but why not cook and sleep at the same time!

So be brave and try my overnight turkey – you will awake to a house that smells divine, an oven that is perfectly warm and ready to be filled with stuffing, yams and pies.

This recipe works best with a large bird. I prefer a turkey that is 20 – 22 Lbs. You will also need an instant read thermometer so that you can be totally convinced that the turkey is fully cooked. I start at 11:00 pm – so that by midnight the kitchen is cleaned and the turkey is cooking all by itself. When I awake I have a fully cooked turkey and empty oven.

Since this turkey is going to be cooked slowly at a fairly low temperature, do not stuff the turkey cavity. Cook your stuffing separately.

How to Cook a Turkey Overnight

How to Cook a Turkey Overnight

Preheat your oven to 400°

You Will Need:

  • A Big Turkey
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Garlic Powder
  • Two Heads of Garlic
  • Yellow Onions
  • Poultry Spice – Or Any Fresh Herbs Your Prefer
  • Celery
  • Parsnips
  • Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
  • An Instant Read Thermometer

How to Cook a Turkey Overnight


1. Thoroughly wash your turkey inside and out. Pat dry.

2. Place in a Large Roasting pan – on a rack.

3. Season with Salt, Pepper, Poultry Spice (I use Bell's), Paprika and Garlic Powder. Remember to season inside as well as outside.

4. Clean and peel two heads of garlic and place garlic, celery, parsnips, onions and water under the rack, (add enough water to come to the top of the rack – and not to touch the turkey itself). Add the turkey neck, liver and gizzard to the water in the pan.

5. Place the turkey in the oven (at 400°) and roast for 30 minutes.

6. After 30 minutes baste the turkey – and lower oven to 250°. COVER THE PAN COMPLETELY BY MAKING A TENT OUT OF HEAVY DUTY ALUMINUM FOIL. You must make sure that all the edges of the pan are covered so that the moisture will remain in the pan. This is the only tricky part to cooking a turkey like this. You should check the water before sealing the pan. There only needs to be a few inches.

How to Cook a Turkey Overnight

7. Now go to sleep – and you will dream of turkey. (I think it has to do with the smell of the turkey cooking.)

8. If you are of an age that you get up during the night to go to the bathroom – you can check the turkey – but it should be fine. By 7am – the turkey should be fully cooked. You can check by inserting an instant read thermometer in the breast it should read 155 165°.

9. You can unwrap the turkey, baste and raise the temperature to brown the breast. (Please do not consume undercooked poultry.)

I leave the turkey in the pan to cool – and I go right back to sleep. I watch the parade and then and only then do I begin to cook my side dishes. This is what my father would call a “gedempte turkey” – so well cooked that it falls off the bone – yet because of how it was cooked it is moist and delicious.

Strain the drippings and refrigerate them. Remove the fat layer and use the drippings as a base for your gravy. I serve the turkey at room temperature with warm gravy.

How to Cook a Turkey Overnight

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