How Long Can You Refrigerate a Freshly Butchered Turkey?

Turkey is a crowd-pleaser, but because of their size, it can be a little difficult to store and prepare in advance of any event. Determining how long fresh turkey can be refrigerated will assist you in choosing the optimal time to purchase and preserve the freshness of the turkey. So, how long can you keep fresh turkey refrigerated? We’ve got you covered!.

Keeping your Thanksgiving turkey fresh and safe is crucial, so let’s dive into the world of poultry preservation!

The Verdict: 3 Days is the Safe Zone

According to the experts at Backyard Chickens, a freshly butchered turkey can safely reside in your refrigerator for up to 3 days. This timeframe ensures optimal freshness and prevents any unwanted bacterial growth.

Beyond the 3-Day Mark:

If you’re looking to extend the shelf life of your turkey, freezing is your best bet. The USDA recommends freezing a fresh turkey within 1-2 days of purchase or by the “best by” date. Frozen turkeys can remain safe indefinitely, but for the best quality, aim to consume them within 12 months.

Storage Tips:

  • Keep it cool: Ensure your refrigerator maintains a temperature of 40°F or below.
  • Wrap it up: Secure your turkey in its original packaging or wrap it tightly in butcher paper or plastic wrap.
  • Location, location, location: Place your turkey on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.
  • No need for ice baths: While surrounding your turkey with ice may seem tempting, it’s unnecessary. Maintaining a consistently cool temperature in your refrigerator is sufficient.

A Word on Store-Bought Turkeys:

Store-bought turkeys have already spent some time on the shelf, so their refrigerator lifespan is slightly shorter. Aim to cook them within 1-2 days of purchase.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out:

If you’re unsure about the freshness of your turkey, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and discard it. Trust your senses – if it smells off or appears discolored, don’t risk it.


  • Freshly butchered turkey: 3 days in the refrigerator
  • Store-bought turkey: 1-2 days in the refrigerator
  • Frozen turkey: Indefinitely (best quality within 12 months)

Bonus Tip:

If you’re planning to brine your turkey, do so in the refrigerator. This will help keep the bird safe while infusing it with delicious flavor.

Enjoy a Safe and Delicious Thanksgiving!

By following these guidelines, you can ensure your Thanksgiving turkey is fresh, flavorful, and safe for your family and friends to enjoy.

How to Store In the Fridge?

Even though refrigeration is a straightforward process, you should proceed with caution to stop the spread of dangerous microorganisms.

Here are a few tips to make sure the turkey remains safe until cooked:

  • To make sure you choose a fresh turkey, check the “use by” date on the package.
  • Choose a package that has no tears.
  • Skip rinsing the turkey. The water won’t wash any bacteria away.
  • Turkey should be packaged and placed on a tray to keep poultry juice from getting into the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate immediately after purchase.
  • Since the back of the turkey is usually the coldest part of the refrigerator, place it on the lower shelf.

How Long Can You Keep Fresh Turkey Refrigerated?

You can keep fresh turkey, turkey cutlets, and giblets for one to two days in the fridge. That’s as long as the refrigerated temperature is at least 40ºF.

That said, the storage period would depend on whether or not you’ve safely handled the turkey during your trip home.

For instance, you shouldn’t keep fresh turkey in a hot car for more than 30 minutes. Otherwise, you risk the multiplication of harmful bacteria even before refrigerating it.

Generally, raw meat, like turkey, is a highly perishable food. While 30 minutes isn’t long enough for the turkey to show visible spoilage signs, some bacteria can reproduce within as little as 4 minutes and produce harmful toxins.

Sure, oven temperatures around 165ºF and above are enough to kill bacteria, but that won’t affect the toxins.

PRO TIP: On the day of pickup, fill the cooler to the brim with ice to eliminate any chance of bacteria growth.

how long can you refrigerate a fresh killed turkey

How long can you keep a thawed turkey in the refrigerator before cooking?


How long can a freshly killed turkey stay in the fridge?

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.

Can I keep a fresh turkey in the fridge for 5 days?

Buy a fresh turkey one to two days before the day you plan to cook. If there is a ‘best-by’ or ‘use by’ date on the manufacturer’s label, then you can keep fresh poultry, unopened, in the refrigerator until that date.

How do you store a fresh butchered turkey?

Our food safety guidance for refrigerating whole, uncooked turkey and poultry are 1-2 days at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Turkey can be frozen for up to one year. Signs of spoilage to be aware of: Off-odors.

How long should turkey rest after butchering?

Either way, at least a day to come out of rigor, and a day to brine. An extra day probably helps get a little more enzymatic breakdown of the muscles. Slaughtered turkeys on Sunday.

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