How Long Can You Refrigerate Cooked Turkey? A Comprehensive Guide to Leftover Turkey Storage

Find out how long turkey keeps in the refrigerator so you can safely utilize all of your festive holiday leftovers.

“How long does turkey last in the fridge?” is a question that should be asked after enjoying a holiday meal. It’s crucial to know the answer to this question in order to prevent food poisoning and to help you reduce food waste.

Use our advice to store food safely and to make the most of any leftovers from the holidays for sandwiches, wraps, and other dishes.

It’s crucial to store your bird properly whether you cooked it in the oven or one of our top air fryers. The CDC provides a wealth of information about handling leftover holiday food, and we’ve also put together a brief how-to guide.

Leftover turkey is a Thanksgiving staple but knowing how long it’s safe to keep in the refrigerator can be tricky. This guide will answer all your questions about storing cooked turkey, ensuring you enjoy your leftovers safely and deliciously.

Refrigeration Guidelines

According to the USDA, cooked turkey can be safely refrigerated for up to 4 days. This applies to both whole turkey and sliced turkey. However, it’s crucial to follow proper storage practices to prevent bacterial growth and maintain quality.

Proper Storage Techniques

  • Cool it down: After carving your turkey, let it cool to room temperature within 2 hours. Then, divide it into smaller portions and store it in airtight containers or wrap it tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
  • Refrigerate promptly: Once cooled, place the turkey in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking. This helps prevent bacteria from multiplying.
  • Maintain proper temperature: Ensure your refrigerator is set to 40°F or below to keep the turkey at a safe temperature.

Signs of Spoilage

While refrigerated turkey can last for 4 days, it’s essential to check for signs of spoilage before consuming it. These include:

  • Slimy texture: If the turkey feels slimy or sticky, it’s best to discard it.
  • Off odor: A sour or unpleasant smell indicates spoilage.
  • Discoloration: Changes in color, such as graying or greening, are signs of bacterial growth.

Freezing Leftover Turkey

If you won’t be eating your leftover turkey within 4 days, freezing is a viable option. Frozen turkey can last for 3-4 months while maintaining good quality.

Freezing Instructions

  • Cool and divide: Similar to refrigeration, cool the turkey to room temperature and divide it into smaller portions.
  • Wrap tightly: Wrap the turkey portions tightly in freezer-safe bags or containers, removing as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.
  • Label and date: Label the package with the date of freezing to keep track of its storage duration.
  • Freeze quickly: Place the wrapped turkey in the freezer as soon as possible to maintain its quality.

Thawing Frozen Turkey

When ready to use frozen turkey, thaw it safely in the refrigerator overnight. Alternatively, thaw it under cold running water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Avoid thawing turkey at room temperature, as this can promote bacterial growth.

Reheating Leftover Turkey

Reheat leftover turkey thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F. This ensures any potential bacteria are killed.

Additional Tips

  • Use leftover turkey within 4 days of refrigeration or 3-4 months of freezing for optimal quality and taste.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. If you’re unsure about the safety of your leftover turkey, it’s better to err on the side of caution and discard it.
  • Leftover turkey can be used in various dishes, such as sandwiches, soups, casseroles, and salads.

By following these guidelines, you can safely store and enjoy your leftover turkey for days or even months. Remember to refrigerate promptly, store properly, and check for signs of spoilage before consuming. With proper handling, your Thanksgiving feast can continue to bring joy and deliciousness long after the holiday is over.

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 (in your best slow cooker), keep in mind that once the meat has been reheated, it should not be done again. Therefore, only make as much as you need and resist the urge to store the leftovers.

According to the Department of Agriculture, a turkey must reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be safe. Therefore, if you want peace of mind, it might be worthwhile to purchase a meat thermometer (like this one from Alpha Grillers on Amazon).

How long does turkey last in the fridge

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

Turkey that has been cooked can be refrigerated for three to four days, but any leftovers you want to keep longer can be frozen.

As soon as you have carved what you need for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, you can begin the process of storing it safely.

How long is leftover turkey good for in the fridge?


Is leftover turkey good after 7 days?

Turkey typically lasts up to four days in the fridge before it goes bad. It can be stored in the freezer for up to four months before it starts to lose its flavor and texture. The USDA offers the following tips for storing and handling your turkey leftovers.

Is it OK if turkey was left in fridge for a week?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends using cooked turkey within three to four days as long as it is kept refrigerated at a temperature that is 40°F or lower.

Can a turkey sit in the fridge for 5 days?

Storing Leftover Turkey Use refrigerated turkey and stuffing within 3 to 4 days. Use gravy within 1 to 2 days. If freezing, use leftovers within 2 to 6 months for best quality.

Can I keep a fresh turkey in the fridge for 6 days?

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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