How long will a cooked turkey last in the fridge: How long does turkey last in the fridge

How long does turkey last in the fridge

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If you enjoyed a great Thanksgiving Day feast, Christmas Day dinner, or a casual mid-week turkey roast (it could happen) then you may be wondering how long will turkey last in the fridge. It’s an important question, to not only help you reduce food waste but to also avoid your food spoiling which can lead to food poisoning — no one needs that.  

Whether you cooked your bird in the oven or your air fryer, storing it properly is essential. The CDC has lots of information on taking care of holiday leftovers and we’ve put together a quick how-to guide also.

How to refrigerate leftover turkey

Once cooked, you should store your turkey leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours and when cool. 

Cooked turkey can be kept in the fridge for three to four days but you can freeze leftovers you want to keep longer. 

The process of storing it safely starts as soon as you have carved what you need for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

How to store leftover turkey

  • Cover the cooked meat loosely with foil as it cools to avoid any airborne bacteria landing on it. 
  • Once it has cooled, wrap it completely or cut up and store in a food storage container, before putting it in the fridge.
  • Do not store it under or next to uncooked meat as the juices could contaminate it.

Ziploc Freezer Bags

Beeswax Food Wrap

Glass Food Storage Set

Every time you use some, make sure you practice good food hygiene by washing your hands before handling and chopping on a clean board that has not been in contact with raw meat. Always re-wrap the turkey before returning it to the fridge, and don’t let it sit out of the fridge for too long between uses.

How can you tell if turkey is bad?

If cooked turkey has gone bad, you can usually tell by the smell and texture. It may seem slimy in texture and smell strong, discard it if this is the case and to avoid this at all costs, use our advice!

Want to ensure your refrigerator is keeping food at a safe temperature? It might be time for our new one — give one of these bestsellers that are on offer a go. Or check out our buying guide to the best fridge freezers.

How to freeze leftover turkey

Cooked turkey can be safely stored in the freezer at 0˚F or less, for up to six months although some will be past its best after only two. Be sure to check CDC’s website for full advice:

  • Let the turkey cool then slice the meat or cut it into more manageable chunks.
  • Wrap them individually in foil and seal them in Ziplo freezer bags
  • Wrap it tightly to avoid freezer burn
  • Freeze the meat on the day it’s been cooked
  • Label your bag with the date (in case you forget!)
  • Always defrost thoroughly before using it.

How to safely reheat cooked turkey

There are so many things you can do to avoid wasting your leftover turkey. The first day or two after cooking, it can be sliced and eaten cold on sandwiches. Later on, you will probably want to reheat it before eating.

To reheat, always check the turkey is piping hot through to the center before eating. If you use it to make a curry or other hot dish, remember that reheated curry should not be reheated again, so make the amount you need and don’t be tempted to store the leftovers — reheat the meat only once. 

  • You can check the FDA for more advice.
  • If you’re UK-based, you can check the Food Safety UK site for more advice.

How Long Does Turkey Last in the Fridge or Freezer?

If you’re looking to extend the life of some turkey you’ve stocked up on, you might be wondering: how long does turkey last in the fridge, and how long does turkey last in the freezer? Read on to learn the basics of storing turkey for later use.

Storing Turkey in the Fridge

Unsure of the best process for storing turkey in the fridge? Don’t worry — it’s pretty simple! Raw pieces of turkey can be wrapped in Glad® Press’n Seal®, then stored in an airtight bag like Glad® FLEX’N SEAL™ Food Storage Quart Bags. Sliced cold cuts can be stored in a food storage bag, with any extra air squeezed out before it’s sealed. Be sure to wash your hands before and after handling turkey, especially if it’s raw.

If properly stored, raw turkey can last in the fridge for 1–2 days, while cold cuts last up to 5 days. How long does cooked turkey last in the fridge? If you have leftovers that include cooked turkey, you can expect those to last in the refrigerator for 3–4 days.

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Freezing Cooked Turkey and Raw Turkey

If you have enough turkey leftovers to last more than a few days, you might want to consider freezing cooked turkey instead of refrigerating it. The same is true if you’re stocked up on raw turkey that you don’t plan to cook right away. Luckily, the process for storing turkey in the freezer — whether it’s cooked or raw — is really simple.

Create an airtight seal around each individual piece of turkey using Glad® Press’n Seal®, then put them into an airtight bag, such as Glad® FLEX’N SEAL™ Freezer Quart Bags, making sure to squeeze out any extra air before sealing. If you’re freezing a whole turkey, just wrap your bird in several layers of Glad® Cling’n Seal™ or Glad® Press’n Seal®. In both cases, you’ll want to store the turkey in the deepest part of the freezer. When properly stored, raw turkey pieces should stay good in the freezer for up to 9 months, while whole raw turkeys last for a year when frozen. Cooked turkey pieces last in the freezer for 4–6 months.

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Thawing Frozen Turkey

Per the USDA’s guidelines, you should never thaw frozen turkey on the counter or in hot water, nor should you leave it at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

The best way to thaw turkey (whole or in pieces) is to move the frozen package from the freezer onto a plate and into the fridge, and then let it thaw gradually. Depending on the size of what you’re thawing, this method can take a full day. If raw frozen turkey is thawed in the refrigerator, the defrosted turkey can last in the fridge for 1–2 days before it needs to be cooked or refrozen.

If you’re in a hurry to thaw your turkey, there’s a faster method you can use. Ensure the turkey is in an airtight bag — like Glad® FLEX’N SEAL™ Food Storage Quart Bags — then submerge it in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw. You can also thaw frozen turkey pieces in the microwave, but if you want to use that method, you should plan to cook it immediately after thawing to prevent bacteria from growing.

For safe meat preparation, reference the USDA website.

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Prepare for freshness

How, where and how much to store meat



March 23, 2022

Tips for those who love meat and want it to stay fresh and tasty longer.

Storing meat in the refrigerator

If you are going to cook meat today or tomorrow, you do not need to freeze it. It is enough to put it deeper in the refrigerator.

The bottom shelf is usually the coldest. However, it also happens that the upper compartment is the coldest – it all depends on the model of the refrigerator. So read the instructions.

Chicken, turkey and other poultry can only last 1-2 days in the refrigerator when raw and 3-4 days when cooked.

Pork, beef and other raw red meats will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator. But after preparation, it is not recommended to store it for more than 4 days.

Minced meat can be stored on the refrigerator shelf for a maximum of 2 days.

Storing meat in the freezer

The optimum freezer temperature is -18°C.

The main condition for the preservation of meat in the freezer is the absence of air in the package. Try to get all the air out of the meat bag and close it tightly. If you have a special vacuum sealer – fine, use it. It also does not hurt to wrap a bag of meat in foil.

To prevent large pieces from freezing, wrap each piece in cling film.

Be sure to sign all packages and containers. So you will always know how long the meat has lain in the freezer.

Whole chicken, duck, goose or turkey can be stored in the freezer for a very long time – up to 12 months. Separate parts of the bird are recommended to be kept there for no more than 9 months.

Large cuts of beef, veal, pork and lamb are also stored in the freezer for six months to a year. Smaller pieces of red meat will last less, 4-6 months.

Game (but not wild birds) can be stored for 8-12 months.

Frozen minced meat will last no more than 3-4 months.

Cooked frozen meat keeps its properties for 2-6 months.

Meat storage without refrigeration and freezer

If you are going on a long trip or just want to stock up on meat for future use, and the size of the freezer does not allow you to roam, consider alternative ways to store meat.


Salt destroys microbes, dries the meat and keeps it from spoiling for a long time. There are two main salting methods. You can rub the pulp with salt, let the released liquid drain and get a dry product at the exit. To make the meat more tasty, you can add herbs and spices to the salt or pre-marinate it with vinegar. And you can stand in a saline solution, adding honey or brown sugar for taste.

There are many recipes for corned beef, but Lifehacker found the easiest one.

Place the pieces of meat in a bag or jar with a tight screw cap and sprinkle with salt. Make sure that the meat is covered with crystals on all sides.

Close the jar or bag tightly and store in a cool place (2-4°C, never below freezing).

Meat aging time is calculated as follows: 3 days per centimeter of meat. For example, a piece 10 cm thick will be salted for a month. Corned beef in a jar of no more than 1 liter is prepared for at least 3 weeks.

Rinse meat with water before eating. Corned beef can be stored without a refrigerator for 3-4 months if kept in a container that does not allow air to pass through.


Cut the meat into narrow strips about 1 cm thick. Boil for 3-5 minutes. Then take the pulp out of the water and let it dry completely.

Salt the meat strips and season with spices to taste.

Place a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet, lay out the blanks in a single layer and place in the oven. Select the minimum temperature and turn on the ventilation mode or open the door a little. After 8-12 hours the meat will be ready.

Dried meat can be stored for up to 2 months without refrigeration in tightly closed containers.


Canned meat can be stored for years. The only thing to consider: for canning meat, in addition to jars with lids, you need a special device called an autoclave.

Photo: FoodCraftLab / Flickr

This is a rather bulky thing that not everyone can find on the farm. However, it is she who guarantees the safety of canned meat. The old grandmother’s method of canning with steam sterilization of cans, alas, is not safe enough for meat.

Both boiled and raw meat can be preserved.

Preserving boiled meat

Boil the meat with salt and spices until half cooked. Then transfer the pieces to hot sterile jars and fill with hot broth almost to the top.

Clean the jars, close the lids tightly and place in the autoclave. Then follow the instructions for using the device.

Raw meat preservation

Pieces of raw meat are salted and stored in jars. The pulp does not need to be filled with anything: it itself will give juice during heat treatment in an autoclave. This method requires more time than canning boiled meat. Cooking pressure and cooking time also depend on the size of the jars and the amount of food. Banks must be hermetically sealed.

Meat preserved in this way is stored without refrigeration, but it is still recommended to keep it in a cool place.

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How long and how to store a turkey in the refrigerator and freezer

Baked turkey (turkey meat and turkey meat are one and the same) is a traditional dish of some nations on certain holidays. But even in those countries where this bird is not so popular, it can be purchased without much difficulty. Storage of turkey meat has its own characteristics, which is important to consider when buying it. Today we will talk about how to store a turkey at home, and how to choose the right one.

What kind of meat to choose

When the turkey reaches 16 weeks of age, the taste of its meat is excellent. At this time, the weight of the bird is 9 – 10 kg. And the optimal ratio of bones and muscle mass is considered when the weight of the turkey reaches 5.5 kg. and more, which can be determined by simple weighing.

An old bird sometimes reaches a weight of 35 kg, but you should not buy such meat: it will be quite tough.

The meat of young turkeys is more tender, but in terms of nutritional value, it has not yet reached the required maturity. And the content of nutrients in it is relatively small. Another thing is a bird weighing 6-10 kg. It meets all the necessary qualities. Turkey meat, whose weight exceeds 6 kilograms, has excellent taste. That is why they choose him.

You can determine the age of birds by the color of their legs and combs. A light comb and gray legs with a smooth surface are an indicator of the young age of a turkey. The body structure of the bird should have good fleshiness and be well-fed to a certain extent.

A quality turkey has white skin with a slight yellowish tinge. It is good if it is slightly damp, but not slippery. Also, there should not be various dark spots on its surface.

A good bird has a healthy appearance and elastic texture (quickly returns to its original shape when pressed). And the surface of the abdominal cavity should be moist and shiny.

A pleasant, fresh meat flavor is a must when buying turkey.

Storing fresh turkeys

Chilled turkeys have a short shelf life of about 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. Under the condition of rapid preparation, the bird is not frozen.

It is important to remember that you cannot store a turkey in the refrigerator with the bones: the meat will spoil faster.

  • It is also impossible to freeze turkey after chilled storage: it will lose most of its taste. It’s best to cook it right away.
  • Turkeys should only be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
  • Birds purchased without packaging are carefully wiped with napkins so that no moisture remains on its surface.
  • If turkey meat has not been used within 2 days, it is frozen without removing it from the plastic bag using quick freezing technology.
  • Poultry meat frozen at home, even in a modern chamber, has a shorter shelf life than what was frozen industrially.

Frozen turkey storage

Meat with a dry surface is placed in a bag and frozen using the quick freeze function. If the turkey is in a factory sealed package, do not open it.

Turkey freezer shelf life:

  • 1 year if blast frozen;
  • 9 months, if frozen in parts.

Frozen ground turkey can be stored for 3-4 months.

Thawed meat

Poultry that has been thawed naturally should be consumed within the next 6 hours.

  • If pieces of meat were thawed on the refrigerator shelf, its shelf life after defrosting (including this time) will be 24 hours.

It is strictly forbidden to re-freeze this meat. In this case, the risk of developing dangerous microflora in it increases, not to mention the loss of taste.

  • On the refrigerator shelf , a whole turkey carcass can remain usable for two days after defrosting.
  • And if it is in industrial packaging of the manufacturer, then 5 days or more. The expiration date can be seen on the label.
  • If you are going to store a turkey in the refrigerator for more than a week, it is best to freeze it during this time so that the bird does not spoil.

Storing turkey at different temperatures

How long turkey meat will stay fresh depends on storage conditions:

  • 1 year – at -25°C and below;
  • about a month – at -14°С -12°С;
  • 3 – 4 days – at 0°С -4°С;
  • 2 days – at 0°С -2°С.