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How To Store A Turkey

Have you ever wondered how to store your Thanksgiving bird properly? Whether it’s a freshly bought turkey or delicious leftovers from a family feast, storing turkey the right way can help extend its freshness and taste.

Top view of a fresh Thanksgiving turkey on a wooden counter.

Store fresh turkey in the fridge for up to 2 days. For longer storage, freeze it; whole turkeys can last a year. Store leftovers in airtight containers or freeze them. Thaw frozen turkey in the fridge, allowing 24 hours per 5 pounds.

How to store fresh turkey

Firstly, let’s talk about fresh turkeys. After you’ve brought home a fresh turkey from the grocery store, you might ask, “Where should I put it?” The answer is simple – keep it in the refrigerator! But wait, there’s more to it than just putting it on any shelf. Follow these steps:

  1. Keep the turkey in its original packaging.
  2. Place it on a tray or in a shallow pan to catch any possible leaks.
  3. Position it in the coldest part of your fridge, which is usually at the back of the bottom shelf.

How long will a fresh turkey last in the fridge?

You might be surprised to know that a fresh turkey can stay good in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. This relatively short refrigeration time is due to the perishable nature of fresh poultry.

If you can’t cook the turkey within this timeframe, consider freezing it to extend its shelf life. Just remember, freezing doesn’t kill bacteria, it only halts their growth, so always ensure your turkey is safe and fresh before freezing.

Learn all of the ways to tell if turkey has gone bad whether it’s a whole turkey or ground turkey, or even sliced deli turkey, we have the answers!

How to freeze a turkey

Freezing turkey can be a lifesaver, especially when you have a large turkey that needs to be stored for an extended period. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Keep the turkey in its original packaging.
  2. If the turkey is whole, you can place it directly in the freezer. If it’s cut up, distribute the pieces into individual freezer bags.
  3. If using freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing the bag.
  4. Don’t forget to write the date on the packaging or bag with a permanent marker.

When properly stored, a whole turkey can last up to a year in the freezer. For turkey parts, like breasts or wings, you can expect them to stay good for about nine months.

How to thaw a frozen turkey

When you’re ready to cook your frozen turkey, it’s important to thaw it correctly. Here are the steps:

  1. Place the frozen turkey in a tray and put it in the fridge.
  2. Allow 24 hours of thawing for every 5 pounds of turkey.
  3. Once thawed, cook the turkey within 1 to 2 days.

How to store leftover turkey

Now let’s talk about the best part of any turkey meal – the leftovers! Properly storing meat is essential to food safety. Here’s how you can store them:

In the fridge

  1. Let the leftover turkey cool down but don’t leave it out for more than 2 hours.
  2. Cut the turkey into smaller pieces. This will help it cool down faster and make it easier to store.
  3. Place the pieces in airtight containers.
  4. Store in the fridge.

In the freezer

  1. Wrap the leftover turkey pieces in aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
  2. Place them in a freezer bag, squeeze out the air, and seal it.
  3. Write the date on the bag.
  4. Store in the freezer.

Learn how to reheat your turkey so that you can enjoy the same great taste and moisture as when it first came out of the oven.

Frequently asked questions about how to store a turkey

Yes, you can refreeze cooked leftover turkey. Just be sure to let it cool, wrap it in foil or plastic wrap, and place it in a freezer bag. Remember to date the bag and consume it within 2-6 months for the best quality.

Yes, it’s recommended to safely thaw your turkey before cooking it. The best method is to thaw it in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey.

The temperature of your refrigerator should be set at or below 40°F (4°C) to properly store turkey. At this temperature, the growth of bacteria is slowed, keeping your turkey safe to eat.


Storing turkey properly isn’t difficult at all, but it’s important if you want to enjoy tasty and safe meals.

Remember, when in doubt, it’s always safer to freeze your turkey and thaw it out later. That way, you can extend the life of your bird and savor the delicious taste anytime you crave it.

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