How Long Does Turkey Last In The Fridge? A Guide To Safe Storage And Eating

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Find out how long does turkey last in the fridge and tips to store, thaw, and reheat cooked turkey to prevent food waste and food poisoning. 

How Long Does Turkey Last In The Fridge? A Guide To Safe Storage And Eating
How Long Does Turkey Last In The Fridge

One of the best poultry to serve at Thanksgiving dinner is turkey. The traditional meal consists of a large bird, usually weighing an average of fifteen pounds, rubbed with spices and smoked for hours to give it a rich, tangy flavor. The turkey is then served with traditional side dishes such as stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. 

The problem is that turkey doesn’t last very long in the fridge. It could be good for only three to four days depending on how fresh it was when it was cooked.

This post will look at safe ways to store and eat the leftover turkey without bringing about food waste or food poisoning.

How Long Does Turkey Last In The Fridge?

How Long Does Turkey Last In The Fridge? A Guide To Safe Storage And Eating 1
How Long Does Turkey Last

After cooking, refrigerate any leftover turkey as soon as it’s cool and within a couple of hours. The refrigerator can hold cooked turkey for three to four days.

You should start thinking about storing cooked turkey in the fridge as soon as you start carving the meat. 

After you have served the turkey, put away the rest in the refrigerator after making sure it has cooled down to room temperature. 

Don’t forget to wrap it up completely with foil or plastic wrapper.

How Long Does Turkey Keep In The Freezer

Fully cooked leftover turkey can be stored for up to six months in the freezer, provided your freezer maintains a constant temperature of 0°F (-17.78°C) or lower. 

However, only commercial freezers are able to do that. 

The freezers used in homes cannot hold a constant temperature because there is frequent opening and closing. 

Many times, the freezer door also doesn’t close properly, making it unsafe for frozen turkey leftovers to be kept there for more than six months. 

How Long Does Ground Turkey Last In The Fridge

How Long Does Turkey Last In The Fridge? A Guide To Safe Storage And Eating 2
How Long Does Ground Turkey Last In The Fridge

Ground turkey lasts up to two days in the fridge. You should keep the original packaging intact. 

If left at room temperature for more than two hours, the ground turkey will go bad and it’s best to throw it away. 

To store ground turkey in the freezer, wrap the original store packaging with airtight foil or plastic wrapping to prevent freezer burn. Make sure you freeze it before the sell-by date on the packaging. 

Frozen ground turkey can be stored for three to four months in the freezer.

In the refrigerator, cooked ground turkey typically lasts 3 to 4 days and 4 months if kept in the freezer.

After getting frozen and thawed, ground raw turkey can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two before cooking, provided it was defrosted in the fridge.

Frozen raw ground turkey once defrosted under tap water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.

Signs that the ground turkey meat has gone bad are:

  1. If there is a pungent smell.
  2. If the color of the ground meat is not light pink.
  3. If the ground meat feels slimy, not juicy. When you touch it, it has gone bad if you feel there’s a film on it. 
Cooked turkey in fridge3-4 days
Cooked turkey in freezer6 months
Ground turkey in fridge2 days
Ground turkey in freezer3-4 months
Cooked ground turkey in fridge3-4 days
Cooked ground turkey in freezer4 months
Whole raw turkey in freezer1 year
Thawed and refrigerated turkey2 days

Tips To Store And Handle Leftover Turkey

Tips To Store Leftover Turkey
How To Store Leftover Turkey

As the meat cools, gently cover it with foil to prevent airborne microorganisms from touching it.

Hot meat shouldn’t be placed in the freezer or refrigerator since condensation from it may encourage the growth of bacteria.

After it has cooled, completely wrap it up with foil or plastic film or chop it up into smaller pieces and place it in a food storage container before refrigerating or freezing.

The oxygen from the air can lead to freezer burn especially if you’re planning to freeze the cooked turkey meat.

💡Pro Tip: If you remove the bones and chop up the cooked turkey into smaller pieces, it makes it easier to portion them, warm them up, and use them in turkey recipes

Keep the cooked turkey in the freezer on the same day it was cooked. Store it away from raw meat to prevent contamination. Write the date of freezing on the container so that you know by which date you should consume it. 

When you handle turkey leftovers, wash your hands thoroughly and use a clean chopping board to chop the cooked meat. Make sure the same board was not used to cut raw meat. 

Always wrap the leftover turkey and store it in airtight containers. Don’t let the cooked turkey sit outside for too long in between uses to prevent microbial growth. 

Keep the kitchen, utensils, and dishes clean

Turkey, stuffing, and gravy should be thrown out if they have been out for more than two hours (or one hour in temps above 90°F or 32°C).

Use the refrigerated turkey and stuffing within three to four days. Other Thanksgiving leftovers like gravy should be used within a day or two.

If you are freezing turkey leftovers, it’s best to use them within 2 to 6 months before the taste and texture make them unappetizing.  

Tips For Reheating Turkey Leftover

Anytime throughout the four-day window, eating cold turkey straight from the refrigerator is regarded as safe. 

However, it often takes a little more care to precisely reheat turkey leftovers.

Meat chunks can be heated in the microwave, stovetop, or oven, but you must wait until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (about 74°C) before consuming them. Always use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat.

Warming bird meat gives the perfect environment for bacterial growth. One of the best ways to stop this and keep your dinner safe is to heat it to high enough temperatures.

It’s recommended that you reheat cooked turkey only once.

How To Tell If Your Leftover Turkey Has Spoiled

Spoiled leftover turkey that was refrigerated will smell bad and will feel slimy to the touch. 

If you froze the turkey leftover, you’ll know they have spoiled when the meat feels dry, the color is off, or the texture has become rough

Tips To Store Raw Turkey

How Long Does Turkey Last In The Fridge? A Guide To Safe Storage And Eating 3
Tips To Store Raw Turkey
  1. Buy the whole turkey a day or two before you plan to cook it to get the maximum fresh taste. 
  2. Refrigerate the turkey in a pan or tray to catch the juices it might release.  If you’re not cooking it the same or the next day, freeze it.
  3. Don’t buy pre-stuffed fresh turkeys. If not treated properly, potentially hazardous bacteria in the stuffing can quickly develop and cause food poisoning.

How To Thaw Frozen Turkey

How Long Does Turkey Last In The Fridge? A Guide To Safe Storage And Eating 4
How To Thaw Frozen Turkey

Until you’re ready to cook, you should keep the turkey in the freezer. Follow the steps below to thaw the turkey properly before cooking to avoid contamination. 

You can thaw turkey in three ways – in a microwave oven, in the fridge, or under cold tap water. 

To thaw a frozen turkey in the microwave oven, follow the steps below:

  1. There should be a power level mentioned per pound of meat for thawing in the instruction manual. Find this out first. 
  2. Remove the turkey from the wrapping. 
  3. Take a shallow microwave-safe dish and put the turkey here so that all juices can be collected in the pan. 
  4. Defrost as per the manual. 
  5. Do not refreeze turkey after thawing.
  6. Cook immediately after thawing. 

For thawing in the refrigerator, you should:

  1. Without removing the wrapper, place the turkey in a pan to catch all the juices.
  2. Put the turkey from the freezer into the refrigerator. 
  3. Leave it as per the time mentioned in the table below to thaw completely. 
  4. After the turkey is thawed, you can keep it refrigerated for up to two days. 
  5. You don’t need to cook the turkey immediately after thawing in the fridge. In fact, you can refreeze it. 

The time it takes to thaw turkey in the refrigerator depends on its weight. The following table can serve as a guide. 

4-12 pounds1-3 days
12-16 pounds3-4 days
16-20 pounds4-5 days
20-24 pounds5-6 days

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, thawing every 4 to 5 pounds needs 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Finally, if you want to thaw frozen turkey under cold tap water, follow this process.

  1. Carefully wrap the turkey so that water cannot seep inside. 
  2. In a large bowl of cold tap water, place the turkey so that it’s completely submerged
  3. Change the water every 30 minutes.
  4. Cook the turkey immediately after it has thawed completely
  5. Avoid refreezing it. 

In this method, you need to allow 30 minutes for thawing each pound. Hope the table below helps with easier calculation. 

4-12 pounds2-6 hours
12-16 pounds6-8 hours
16-20 pounds8-10 hours
20-24 pounds10-12 hours

Final Thoughts

It’s always best to be careful about storing and consuming cooked meat like turkey to prevent food contamination and food poisoning. 

To recap, cooked turkey in the fridge should be eaten within four days.

Cooked turkey that has been frozen should be consumed within six months max. 

Exercise caution when handling cooked and raw meat and ensure these two do not come into contact with each other. 

If you follow the tips mentioned in this article, your Thanksgiving leftovers will be a safe culinary experience. 


Is Turkey Still Good After All 7 Days?

Frozen cooked turkey wrapped up and put in an airtight container will be good after seven days but cooked and refrigerated turkey will not be good after four days. 

Can You Eat Turkey After 5 Days?

You can eat cooked and frozen turkey after five days provided you froze the meat on the same day it was cooked and put it away after securely wrapping it in plastic wrap or foil or an airtight container and then freezing it.

Can You Keep A Turkey In The Fridge For 2 Weeks?

No, cooked turkey in the fridge will spoil if not consumed within four days. 
Fresh turkey should be kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook it. 
If you’re not planning to cook the fresh turkey on the same day you buy it, put it away in the freezer after tightly wrapping it and it will retain its taste and texture for one year.

How Long Before Turkey Goes Bad In The Fridge?

Cooked turkey will go bad in the fridge after 4 days.

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