How Long Does Turkey Last In The Fridge Or Freezer?

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The season of celebrations has finally arrived to greet us. We can’t enjoy these holidays without having turkey as our meal.

roasted turkey

Of course, what is Thanksgiving or Christmas without a turkey? They make a valuable meal filled with exciting flavors that are perfect for special occasions. With loads of health benefits, turkey is an item worth preserving for a long time.

If you want to enjoy turkey for a long time, then here comes the opportunity and assistance for doing that. A turkey is a storage-bound item that is big in size and definitely something you want to store for a considerable amount of time.

A turkey in the fridge is as good as celebrating an occasion whenever you want.

Turkey is an extremely sought-after food item, especially at this time of the year. It is purchased and stored in the fridge or freezer.

Turkey can last in the fridge for 1 to 4 days, depending on whether it is cooked or uncooked. It is also stored in the freezer for six or more months. 

We will discuss the storage techniques of the turkey in this article. The three categories, raw turkey, cooked turkey, and thawed turkey, will be detailed here with respect to their storage procedures. 

Packaging and shielding turkeys from microbes are the most necessary ways to extend their lifetime. The steps that we need to follow to keep it fresh for a long time deem necessary and important.

Each type has a different safeguarding method that we want to know about while preserving the turkey.

How Long Does Turkey Last In The Fridge?

raw turkey in fridge
Types of TurkeyDuration
Raw Turkey2 – 3 days
Cooked Turkey3 – 4 days
Thawed Turkey24 hours

1. Raw Turkey 

Raw turkey has to be preserved in the fridge for 2 to 3 days, even after the sell-by date. Raw turkey includes categories like ground turkey, cut pieces of turkey, or whole bird meat.

This has to be packaged rightly and preserved only in the fridge for not more than three days.

2. Cooked Turkey 

Cooked turkey can be preserved in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. The seasoning on the cooked turkey might take care of the freshness, but consuming it before the span of 4 days deems necessary.

Keeping it for a long time would not serve the purpose as it is bound to get spoiled over time.

3. Thawed Turkey 

Thawed turkey or defrosted turkey has to be cooked immediately and cannot be left at room temperature for more than 24 hours. It can also be placed in cold water, but the water has to be replaced every 30 minutes.

How Long Does Turkey Last in the Freezer?

Type of TurkeyDuration
Raw Turkey9 Months
Cooked Turkey6 Months
Thawed Turkey Not Advisable

1. Raw Turkey 

The raw turkey can be kept in the freezer for 9 months. It retains its quality for a longer time when frozen. If the raw turkey is not going to be cooked immediately, then the best way is to just store it in the freezer. It can retain its quality for months together. 

2. Cooked Turkey  

The cooked turkey can be kept in the freezer for 6 months. The seasoning of the turkey has to be maintained for a long time to keep its freshness intact. Cooked turkey is wrapped in aluminum foils to be preserved in the freezer.

3. Thawed Turkey 

Thawed turkey is better not to be placed in the freezer. Once it is thawed, it has to be cooked rather soon than later. If you keep the thawed turkey back in the freezer, it will be frozen again with no juices on the surface.

How Do You Know Turkey Has Gone Bad?

cooked turkey

There are clear signs of turkey going notoriously bad. Factors like appearance, smell, and texture are definite markers to discern that the turkey has gone bad.

Cooked turkey especially has a freshness and an attractive odor that captivates people. However, when it turns bad, all the good smell and smoothness would have vanished, indicating its spoilage.

1. Appearance

Here is how you can tell by the appearance of the turkey whether it has gone bad or not.

a. Cooked Turkey

 The cooked turkey would look very dry on the surface and would lose its sheen. Discoloration is the immediate way of discerning that it has gone bad.

Cooked turkey, when fresh, looks thick, red-brown, or pink in color. However, when it has gone bad, it would look very dull with a paleness that seems notorious and bad.

b. Raw Turkey

Raw turkey, when gone bad, would look pale in appearance. It would also have a discoloration that vividly indicates that it has gone bad beyond any repair. The pink color would have faded out with white or gray patches marking the expiry of the meat.

c. Thawed Turkey

Thawed turkey would have a similar appearance to a raw turkey when gone bad. It would not be glossy enough as it was before to indicate that it has been spoiled.

2. Smell

Here is how you can tell by the smell of the turkey whether it has gone bad or not.

a. Cooked Turkey

The smell of a cooked turkey, in general, is very attractive and quite pleasant with all the spiciness.

However, the cooked turkey, after it has gone bad, would have completely lost its good smell leaving behind an odor that is more pungent and also blunt.

It would actually stink the whole place where it is placed.

b. Raw Turkey 

The smell aspect we discussed cooked turkey would resonate with raw turkey as well. The odor would have turned very unpleasant. It would stink the whole place like rotten eggs or ammonia.

Taking a whiff of the raw turkey would clearly indicate that it can no longer be used. The smell would be repulsive and rancid.

c. Thawed Turkey

 The smell of a spoiled thawed turkey is foul and unpleasant. The odor of rotten thawed turkey is so bad that it almost smells like sulfur. 

3. Texture

Here is how you can tell by the texture of the turkey whether it has gone bad or not.

a. Cooked Turkey 

As mentioned before, cooked turkey is soft in nature and slightly more tender to the touch, with some crispiness that comes with the cooking.

However, the cooked turkey would have lost its smoothness when it has gone bad and would be very slimy to the touch.

b. Raw Turkey 

The texture of bad raw turkey is very slimy. If it looks runny, then you should immediately discard it as there are higher chances that it might contaminate neighboring foods as well.

c. Thawed Turkey

The texture of the spoiled turkey would resemble that of a spoiled raw turkey. Spoiled thawed turkey does not have the glossiness it has when it’s fresh. It also feels very dry to touch. 

4. Taste

Tasting the turkey would be a bad idea as the indication is clear enough to dispose it off without a second thought. Eating the turkey after it has been spoiled will infuse bacteria in your body as well.

Storage Practices

Raw turkey

Storing turkeys for a long time properly with all the measured efforts actually prolongs the life of the turkey to an even more considerable amount of time.

Turkey meat generally does not have a longer shelf life as it’s a cut meat from a whole bird. It is prone to being spoiled once it is exposed to the air or even attracts germs and microbes from the environment easily.

Considering all the possibilities of its eventual damage, one has to be very particular about preserving it right and intact.

Storage Practices Of Cooked Turkey

Cooked turkeys are already sliced, spiced, and seasoned. The layering of this turkey and the softness it has gained through cooking should be preserved for it to extend its shelf life.

Below are some of the good storage practices when it comes to cooked turkeys which need to be followed meticulously if you want to have them on a long-term basis.

1. Refrigerating The Turkey

The cooked turkey has to be refrigerated immediately after it is cooled to some degrees at a temperature of 38 degrees or 40 degrees.

It can also be placed on the meat section or the bottom drawer where coolness is at its maximum. This would inevitably expand its lifetime to 2 or 3 days more than the allowed timeline that it is normally considered consumable. 

2. Freezing The Turkey

Cooked turkey can be frozen for 3 to 4 months easily if you need to preserve it and eat it for a long time. Freezing the cooked turkey is an easier option and is also quite convenient as it can be eaten whenever we want.

3. Packaging

This is a very important step when it comes to preserving turkey. Cooked turkey has layers of spices, and also it is processed to some extent. Hence covering the cooked turkey with foils or plastic covers without even the slightest of leaps would protect it longer.

It can also be placed in airtight containers where no amount of dirt intrusion is possible. You have to make sure that the containers are cleaned well before they are used.

Any possible germs or microbes in the containers could easily get layered over the cooked turkey, spoiling it eventually.

4. Seasoning The Turkey

Cooked turkey has to be seasoned and filled with juices intermittently or periodically to retain the flavor it has gained. These juices would keep their life a little longer, for the overcoating actually acts as a shield from its eventual spoilage.

This is done when the turkey is frozen or kept in the refrigerator and used fresh whenever you need it.

5. Cooling The Turkey

This is another storage practice that deems important to prolong its shelf life. Cooked turkey, when taken from the skillet or oven, is piping hot.

Directly freezing the hot item could be slightly harmful to the temperature fluctuation it would be subjected to. Hence the cooked turkey is allowed to cool to some extent before it is shoved into the fridge.

Storage Practices For Raw Turkey

Raw turkey is slightly more vulnerable than cooked turkey to spoilage, for it is not processed. It has to be stored in the fridge or freezer immediately after it has been purchased.

Keeping it at room temperature for a long time would make it prone to contamination immediately.

1. Refrigerating The Raw Turkey

Raw turkey can be stored in the fridge for 2 to 3 days, even after its sell-by date. It has to be sliced into small potions and refrigerated immediately as soon as it is purchased.

Keeping it at room temperature for a long time could lead to spoilage at a faster rate.

2. Freezing The Raw Turkey

The raw turkey can be frozen for up to 9 months without any hassles. It has to be packaged properly without any leaps and frozen for a long time. 

3. Packaging

Packaging raw turkey is very important as that will increase the chances of extending its shelf life even more. First, it has to be sliced into small portions and wrapped fully in plastic covers or aluminum foils.

It can also be placed tightly wrapped inside airtight containers without any possible external air intrusions.

4. Keep It Clean

When you are dealing with raw turkey, it is always important you clean your hands or fingers and then touch the meat. Any dirt on your hands or nails could also lead to its spoilage unknowingly.

This could happen even before the sell-by date, making us surprised completely.

Reasons For Turkey To Turn Bad

cooked turkey

Turkey, whether it is cooked or uncooked, can turn bad or prone to spoilage if it is not preserved right. The main reasons that contribute to spoilage are many, and that is universal about any food product in general.

Germs and microbes are present in the atmosphere randomly, and they can easily get attached to the surface of the meat rendering it uneatable.

Hence the below reasons would explain all the causes of spoilage and give us an idea about how we preserve food in the future.

1. Air Exposure

Air exposure is the main reason for a turkey or any meat to turn bad. The germs and microorganisms in the air get attracted to the surface of the meat and start breeding on the surface.

Hence closing the meat without any leaks is very important as any small exposure to air can contaminate the turkey within no time.

2. Room Temperature

Buying the turkey and tossing it in the kitchen slab would not help retain its life. It has to be immediately shifted to colder places like the fridge or freezer as early as possible unless you are going to cook it instantly.

Room temperature is more prone to aiding the germs to contact the surface of any wet food products, and that would lead to spoilage without any doubt.

3. Dirt From Surroundings

When we are slicing or cutting the meat with our hands, we have to make sure that we clean our hands thoroughly before accessing the meat.

Any tiny dirt from our hands could get in contact with the meat and spoil it instantly. Touching the meat after touching a spoiled vegetable could also lead to faster contamination of the turkey.

4. Use-By Date

This is a very important factor that we have to be very wary of. While purchasing the meat, we have to make sure it has some life left in it.

Using the turkey before its sell-by date is very important. If you cannot consume it by the specified timeline, then it can be frozen with an immediate effect. 

Shelf Life Tips For Turkey

Storing Turkey

Shelf life for turkey is generally shorter unless and until it is preserved properly and shielded from germs and microbes. The turkey meat is soft and moist on the surface, so it is prone to easy contamination if we are not very careful.

1. Packaging

Turkey can be cooked or raw, but it has to be preserved in closed covers or wrapped fully in foils. No amount of small leakage can protect it from getting spoiled instantly. It is also kept in closed containers, which are airtight and clean.

2. Freezing It

As soon as the turkey is bought, it can be kept in the freezer to retain a longer life. Storing it at a temperature of 38 degrees or 40 degrees would be the right approach for it to stay longer than intended.

This can be done if you don’t want to cook the turkey immediately. Cooked turkey can also be subjected to the same treatment as it can be just folded in foils or containers and kept in the fridge immediately.

3. Cut It Into Small Portions

This tip would be applicable for raw turkey as cutting it into small pieces and then freezing it would help expand its lifetime considerably.

This way all the pieces of the turkey are equally cooled and kept safe without any damage. A large portion of the meat would take time to cold own leading to faster spoilage.

4. Cool It And Store It

This rule applies to cooked turkey more than raw turkey. Cooked turkey is piping hot on the platter. Cooling it immediately would make it vulnerable to sudden temperature fluctuation.

Hence cooling the turkey to room temperature before it can be shoved into the fridge would help restore its quality for some more time.

5. Clean Your Hands

When dealing with a cooked or uncooked turkey, make sure you clean your hands thoroughly, as any small dirt in the fingers or nails could get transferred to meat spoiling in no time. 

6. Constant Seasoning To Avoid Dryness

Cooked turkeys have a layer of spice on the surface which needs to be retained if it has to be rehashed again. Hence constant seasoning of the cooked meat to avoid dryness could help prolong its freshness to some extent.

Thawed Turkey and Its Storage Tips

Thawed turkey is nothing but a defrosted turkey that needs to be cooked immediately. Thawed turkey is best stored in cold water for 24 hours.

The water has to be removed and changed every 30 minutes, so the juices don’t contaminate the meat further. Microwaving the thawed turkey in defrost mode before it can be reheated is the best approach to preserving it.


Turkey is the best meat that is consumed on occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is extremely delicious and big in size as whole bird meat.

It can be stored and consumed for the long term whenever you need it. The storing techniques that go with preserving the turkey have to be followed diligently to use it for a considerable amount of time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why does the turkey get slimy?

The slimy texture on the surface of the turkey is because of the breeding of bacteria on the meat. This makes the texture runny and slimy making it repulsive and unsuitable for use.

Why does the turkey turn gray?

It turns gray because of all the microbes that get settled on the layers. It turns the meat gray and also develops the mold of white patches on the top.

Is it ok to use turkey almost a week past the sell-by date?

It is not safe to use the bacon almost a week past the use-by date. It has to be stored in the freezer or fridge to use after a week.

How long does the turkey last after thawing?

Thawing turkey means defrosting it. Hence defrosted turkey bacon cannot be kept longer outside at room temperature for a long time. It has to be drowned in cold water or kept in the fridge, and that too only for two days. 

How long does the turkey last after the package is unsealed?

The turkey cannot be left unsealed for a long time since it will turn bad instantaneously. So it has to be immediately packaged and shoved inside the fridge or freezer.

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