How Long is a Thawed Turkey Good for in the Refrigerator?

A festive holiday spread is incomplete without the star of the show—the turkey—no matter how many inventive side dishes you prepare. There are countless recipe options available, whether you want to fry, barbecue, or roast the bird the old-fashioned way. The only drawback to preparing the holiday mainstay is that it requires a lot of preparation and time. Then the cooking questions begin: how to prepare a turkey for roasting, how to get crispy turkey skin, etc. How long does it take to defrost a turkey? How do you thaw it? How long can a thawed turkey stay in the fridge?

Among these, the most important ones are how to thaw turkey and how long it keeps in the refrigerator. Your cooking schedule should be designed to ensure that your bird defrosts in time to go into the oven, but not too early to allow it to remain in the refrigerator longer than is safe. In order to organize your post-Thanksgiving leftover extravaganza, it’s also critical to know how long cooked turkey keeps in the refrigerator.

Thawing a turkey can be a time-consuming process, so it’s natural to wonder how long it will stay fresh in the refrigerator once thawed. This guide will answer that question and provide additional information about safe turkey handling and storage.

Safe Thawing Methods

Before discussing how long a thawed turkey is good for, let’s review the safe methods for thawing a turkey:

  • Refrigerator Thawing: This is the safest and most recommended method. Place the turkey in its original packaging on a tray in the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 4-5 pounds of turkey.
  • Cold Water Thawing: Submerge the turkey in a leak-proof bag filled with cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to ensure it stays cold. Allow 30 minutes of thawing time for every pound of turkey.
  • Microwave Thawing: This method should only be used if your microwave has a defrost setting. Consult your microwave’s manual for specific instructions.

How Long is a Thawed Turkey Good for in the Refrigerator?

Once a turkey is thawed, it can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before cooking. However, it’s best to cook the turkey as soon as possible after thawing to ensure the best quality and flavor.

Signs of Spoilage

Here are some signs that indicate a thawed turkey has gone bad:

  • Off odor: A sour or ammonia-like smell is a clear indication of spoilage.
  • Discoloration: The turkey’s flesh may become dull or grayish in color.
  • Slimy texture: The turkey’s surface may become sticky or slimy.

If you notice any of these signs do not eat the turkey. Discard it immediately and thoroughly clean the area where it was stored.

Safe Handling Practices

When handling a thawed turkey it’s important to follow safe food handling practices to prevent the spread of bacteria:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after handling the turkey.
  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw turkey and other foods.
  • Cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F as measured by a food thermometer.
  • Refrigerate or freeze any leftover turkey within 2 hours of cooking.

Thawing a turkey can be a simple process if you follow the safe methods outlined above. Once thawed, a turkey can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before cooking. Remember to always handle raw turkey with care and cook it thoroughly to ensure food safety.

Additional Resources

How Long Can a Frozen or Thawed Turkey Stay In the Fridge?

Before cooking, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises defrosting turkey for a few days at 40°F or lower in the refrigerator. According to Amidor, thawing a turkey requires one day for every four pounds of turkey. This implies that a 12-pound turkey will take three days to thaw, while a larger turkey weighing between 20 and 24 pounds may require up to six days. (Butterball provides a useful calculator to determine the precise amount of time required to defrost your bird. And here’s how to defrost turkey faster if you don’t have that much time. ).

According to Amidor, the turkey can be refrigerated for a further two days after it has thawed before cooking.

For instance, if you’re cooking a 20–24-pound bird, you should put it in the refrigerator to thaw at least six days in advance of eating it so it has time to do so completely, and no later than eight days in advance so you don’t go over the two-day window. It’s best to refrigerate a 12-pound turkey for at least three days and up to five days.

To prevent any juices from creating a mess in your refrigerator when you’re ready to thaw, keep the turkey wrapped in plastic wrap and place it on a rimmed sheet tray or roasting pan. To defrost, place it in the coldest section of your refrigerator; alternatively, store it in a spare refrigerator that isn’t used frequently. Additionally, according to Amidor, “you can refreeze the turkey without cooking, but there will be some loss of quality if you thaw it in the refrigerator and choose not to cook it.”

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

How long can a thawed Turkey last?

The amount of time you can keep a thawed turkey depends on how it was thawed. If you thawed the turkey in the refrigerator, it can last for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. If you thawed the turkey in cold water, it can last for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

How long should a 20 pound turkey thaw?

For whole turkeys, allow one day of thawing for each 4 to 5 pounds of weight. A 20-pound turkey should be fully thawed in 4 or 5 days. Since the bird will keep for an additional day or two afterward (see section below), we prefer to err on the side of caution. Allow 5 days for a 20-pound bird and 3 days for a 10- to 12-pounder.

Can thawed Turkey be frozen?

Thawed turkey will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. If you do not plan on using the thawed turkey within 3 days, you can freeze it. Thawed turkey can be frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze thawed turkey, place it in a freezer-safe container or bag. Label the container or bag with the date and contents.

How do you know if a thawed Turkey is still good?

To help you keep track of how long your turkey has been thawed, write the date on the package or in your kitchen calendar. If you are unsure whether a thawed turkey is still good, there are a few things you can look for. * Slimy or sticky texture. If the turkey feels slimy or sticky, it is likely spoiled. * Off-odor.

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