Freezing Leftover Turkey: A Comprehensive Guide to Saving Your Holiday Feast

Congratulations on having leftover turkey! That means you’ve successfully prepared a feast for your loved ones (and hopefully enjoyed some delicious leftovers already) But what about the extra turkey that’s staring you down from the fridge? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered This guide will teach you everything you need to know about freezing leftover turkey, ensuring it stays fresh and flavorful for future meals.

Why Freeze Leftover Turkey?

Freezing leftover turkey is a fantastic way to avoid waste and extend its shelf life. It allows you to enjoy your Thanksgiving feast in stages, savoring the deliciousness of turkey in various dishes long after the holiday has passed. Plus, it’s a budget-friendly way to have pre-cooked protein on hand for quick and easy meals.

How to Freeze Leftover Turkey: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Prepare the Turkey:
  • Slice the Meat: Remove the meat from the bones, discarding the skin if desired. You can slice or dice the turkey, depending on your preference and future culinary plans.
  • Chill the Turkey: Spread the sliced or diced turkey in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the sheet in the freezer for about an hour, allowing the turkey to become firm. This step prevents the pieces from clumping together when frozen.
  • Package the Turkey: Transfer the chilled turkey to freezer-safe bags or containers. If using bags, squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing. Label the bags or containers with the date and type of turkey (e.g., “Dark Meat, Sliced”).
  1. Choose the Right Container:
  • Freezer-Safe Bags: These are a convenient and space-saving option. Choose bags specifically designed for freezer use, as they are thicker and more durable than regular bags.
  • Freezer-Safe Containers: These are ideal for larger portions of turkey or if you prefer a more rigid container. Opt for containers made from freezer-safe plastic or glass.
  1. Freeze and Store:
  • Freezing Temperature: Place the packaged turkey in your freezer, ensuring the temperature is set at 0°F (-18°C) or below.
  • Storage Duration: Leftover turkey can be frozen for up to 6 months while maintaining optimal quality and taste. However, for the best flavor and texture, it’s recommended to consume it within 3 months.

Thawing and Reheating Frozen Turkey:

  1. Thawing:
  • Refrigerator Thawing: The safest and most recommended method is to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator. Place the frozen turkey in a container on the bottom shelf and allow it to thaw for 1-2 days, depending on the quantity.
  • Microwave Thawing: If you’re short on time, you can thaw the turkey in the microwave using the defrost setting. Ensure the container is microwave-safe and rotate the turkey periodically for even thawing.
  • Cold Water Thawing: Submerge the sealed turkey bag in a bowl of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes until thawed.
  1. Reheating:
  • Oven Reheating: Preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C). Place the thawed turkey in a baking dish, add a splash of broth or water to prevent drying, cover with foil, and heat until warmed through.
  • Microwave Reheating: Transfer the thawed turkey to a microwave-safe container, add a little broth, and cover with a damp paper towel. Heat on medium power, rotating the container occasionally, until heated through.

Tips for Freezing Leftover Turkey:

  • Label Everything: Clearly label your frozen turkey with the date and type of meat to keep track of its storage duration.
  • Use Freezer-Safe Packaging: Ensure you’re using freezer-safe bags or containers to prevent freezer burn and maintain the quality of the turkey.
  • Portion Control: Consider dividing the turkey into smaller portions before freezing, making it easier to thaw and use the amount you need for each meal.
  • Avoid Refreezing: Once thawed, do not refreeze the turkey as it can compromise its texture and safety.

Freezing leftover turkey is a simple and effective way to reduce food waste and enjoy your Thanksgiving feast for weeks to come. By following these guidelines, you can ensure your frozen turkey retains its deliciousness and provides a convenient source of protein for future meals. So, go ahead, freeze that leftover turkey with confidence, and get ready to savor the taste of Thanksgiving all over again!


  • Sharp knife
  • Freezer-safe bag or container
  • Tape (optional)
  • Permanent marker

Thawing the Turkey

  • Basin or sink (optional)
  • Cold water (optional)
  • Store sides like stuffing in separate containers or bags. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0 .
  • If the turkey has already been covered in gravy and is being frozen, leave 0 5 inches (1. 3 cm) of space in the bag after the extra air is removed, allowing the gravy to safely expand when it freezes. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 2 .
  • To ensure that every food item freezes fully, avoid piling a lot of containers on top of one another in the freezer. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 1 .
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Can I freeze cooked turkey after 3 days?


Can you freeze cooked turkey after 4 days in fridge?

USDA recommends using cooked turkey within 3 to 4 days, kept refrigerated (40°F or less). Refrigeration slows but does not stop bacterial growth. Turkey can be frozen for 3 to 4 months. Although safe indefinitely, frozen leftovers can lose moisture and flavor when stored for longer times in the freezer.

How do you freeze cooked turkey so it stays moist?

Freeze: Turkey Meat Just remove the meat from the bones first. Slicing the meat will also help it to defrost evenly. If you can, pour a bit of gravy over the meat before freezing; it’ll add moisture. You can eat the turkey with gravy as usual, but leftover turkey is quite versatile.

Can you eat leftover turkey after 3 days?

How long do the turkey and trimmings stay safe in the refrigerator or freezer? The answer is simple: leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days. This means you have until the Monday after Thanksgiving to eat all those delicious leftovers or place them in the freezer to enjoy later.

How long can you freeze a turkey without it going bad?

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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