How Long Can You Keep A Thawed Turkey In A Refrigerator Before Cooking (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 1-2 Days

We’re all aware that eating meat that hasn’t been properly stored can be dangerous. Any food, but especially meats, can become dangerous due to improper refrigeration, food hygiene, and handling procedures. If you have a thawed turkey at home, you’re probably wondering how to keep it safe and flavorful as well to eat.

After one or two days in the refrigerator, a thawed turkey must be cooked and consumed. If you store a frozen turkey in the fridge for more than two days, dangerous bacteria may begin to grow. Keep a tray underneath the turkey to catch any raw meat fluids and don’t let it sit on the counter.



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How Long Can You Keep A Thawed Turkey In A Refrigerator Before Cooking?

Condition Of TurkeyShelf-Life
Before Thawing1-2 Days
After Thawing2-4 Days

A thawed turkey should only be kept for two days in the refrigerator. You may thaw a turkey in the refrigerator, and you can safely refreeze it if your intentions change within those two days. If you thaw your turkey with cold water, don’t keep it in the fridge; it should be cooked right away.

The easiest approach to thaw a turkey is to put it in the refrigerator and allow it to slowly defrost while remaining at a low temperature. If you don’t plan on using your turkey within the next two days, it’s best to put it back in the freezer to minimize bacterial contamination.

You may decide not to consume your turkey if it has been in the refrigerator for more than two days. In the refrigerator, a five to twelve-pound turkey takes one to three days to thaw. You have two more days to use it up after this point. It may take five to six days for a twenty-two-pound turkey to properly thaw, and you’ll have two days to use it after it’s thawed.

While this may appear to be a waste of time, the risk of food illness from incorrectly preserved meat is significant. We are saying this because you don’t want to take the chance of your turkey getting spoiled, especially if people will be eating the turkey you’ve prepared.

Why Can You Keep A Thawed Turkey In A Refrigerator For That Long?

Always keep in mind that only thawed turkeys should be refrozen. We are saying this because the turkey’s temperature remains low enough throughout the thawing process to prevent bacteria from forming. When you defrost a turkey in a microwave oven or cold water it does not grow in temperature to the point where it is hazardous to eat. But, it will have increased enough that bacteria may be present.

It will have been above 38° F for at least a brief amount of time, indicating that germs will be present. Because the overall temperature is still cool, it will not have had a chance to spread very far through the flesh. Immediate cooking will take care of the problem before the bacteria spreads further, however, re-freezing is not considered safe or appropriate and should be avoided.

We know that different people have different thoughts when it comes to deciding whether their food is safe to eat or not. But, if we look at the norm, you can refrigerate turkey once it has fully thawed out for up to two days. Keep in mind that if you keep it longer than that, you risk swallowing bacteria.

If your turkey has been left on the counter at room temperature for any length of time, it should be discarded since bacteria will have begun to multiply in the meat, rendering it unsafe to eat. This is the main reason why it is advised to keep a thawed turkey in the fridge for only 1 to 2 days. 


It is completely fine to keep your turkey for two days after it has been defrosted in the refrigerator before cooking and eating it. If you need to refreeze it, make sure you do so within two days. But, never defrost a turkey in the fridge; instead, use cold water or the microwave to cook it right away.

A turkey should not be defrosted in warm water or left on the counter. This is not regarded as safe since the outside of the turkey will remain at room temperature for longer than is acceptable, and bacteria will begin to grow well before the bird’s insides have been defrosted.



Last Updated : 23 February, 2024

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