How Long is a Frozen Turkey Good for – (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 2 hours

With the holiday season coming up, turkey may be the main dish on your dinner table. As you do not want to wait until the last minute to shop, you may want to buy it in advance. Perhaps you are wondering if it will be fresh for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or you may even wonder if you can buy an extra turkey for a holiday in the future and keep it in the freezer. When your question is “How long is a frozen turkey good for and why?” some answers can help you have fresh turkey whenever you wish.



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How Long is a Frozen Turkey Good for

How Long Is A Frozen Turkey Good For?

Turkey TypeLifespan
Cooked (Room Temperature)2 hours
Cooked (Refrigerator)4 days
Cooked (Freezer)4 months
Un-Cooked (Room Temperature)No more than 2 hours
Un-Cooked (Refrigerator)1-2 days
Un-Cooked (Freezer)7 months

When it is immediately frozen in its original wrapper, a turkey can last in the freezer for 7 months. While it will be safe for a longer period of time, the taste and quality will be affected.

A frozen turkey should not be left at room temperature before it is cooked. Bacteria will start to grow when the meat is at 40 degrees or higher. This will occur in less than 2 hours. Instead, it should be defrosted in the refrigerator, or thawed in cold water. It can be kept in the refrigerator 1-2 days.

After the turkey is cooked, it can last up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Similar to frozen turkey, do not leave it at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If you want to freeze leftover turkey, it can last up to 4 months in the freezer.

Bacteria will grow in turkey whether it is cooked or uncooked. This is why it is important to refrigerate or freeze it as quickly as possible. Otherwise, it has the potential to cause food poisoning. This illness can be harmful to anyone, but it is especially dangerous to people who have immune system issues or other health problems.

Why Is Frozen Turkey Not Good Indefinitely?

Even under the best circumstances, a freezer will eventually cause the turkey to dry out. It will still be safe, and you will not become ill from eating it, but you will notice a difference if it has been frozen too long.

When a turkey dries out in the freezer, it develops freezer burn. First, this will affect the way the turkey looks. The turkey skin will appear shriveled, and not at all appetizing. You will not want to put it on your holiday table.

Second, it will affect the taste. After the turkey is cooked, it will not be as flavorful and moist. Instead, the meat will be dry, and not nearly as tasty as fresher meat.

The point to keep in mind is freezers are not meant for long-term storage. It is fine to buy a turkey for your New Year’s dinner when you buy them for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but if you purchase turkeys years in advance you will not be happy with the results. When you want to enjoy delicious turkey dinners, freeze the turkey as soon as you get it home, and plan to cook it within a few months.


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