How long a thawed turkey can stay in the fridge will depend on what method you use to thaw your turkey.
You can use my guide on how to thaw a turkey for more details on the various methods.
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How Long Can a Thawed Turkey Stay in the Fridge?
A frozen turkey that has been completely thawed in the refrigerator can safely be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days before cooking after thawing. For optimal freshness and quality, thawed raw turkey is best cooked within this 1-2 day timeframe.
How long the turkey takes to thaw is based on its size. For example, if you bought an 18-pound fully frozen turkey and defrosted it in the fridge it would take 4 to 5 days. Add 1 to 2 days for a safe time in the fridge. that means a large turkey can stay in the fridge for a week. You can use my safe thawing turkey guide for exact times based on the weight of the bird.
If you used the cold water method of thawing you need to cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.
A turkey that was thawed in a microwave oven should be cooked right away as the microwave will begin to cook the bird.
A fresh turkey should be cooked within 1 to 2 days of pick-up.
These storage times apply both to the whole turkey and to uncooked turkey breast.
Storing Turkey in the Fridge
The safest place to store your turkey is in the fridge, not on the back porch or in a cooler. Bacterial growth begins at 40 F degrees (i.e. when it hits the "danger zone". So safe storage is a critical part of the process.
Place the frozen turkey—still in its original packaging—on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any juices. To thaw a turkey in the fridge, allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey.
Remember thawing your Thanksgiving turkey in the fridge is the safest way to a delicious turkey!
The only time it is safe to remove the turkey from the fridge is Thanksgiving morning, I let my turkey sit at room temperature for a half hour to an hour before roasting.
Turkey Storage Tips
You spent a lot of time picking the perfect turkey. Don't let that effort go to waste.
- Thaw turkey in the fridge 24 hours for every 4-5 lbs frozen. Thawing in cold water also works.
- Never thaw turkey at room temperature.
- Ensure you have enough time to thaw your frozen bird. Plan ahead!
- Pat the thawed turkey dry before refrigerating it. Juices spread bacteria so dry surfaces are key.
- You can dry brine a partially defrosted bird. In fact, I recommend it to ensure you cook your turkey when it is within the safe zone and you get a crispy skin!
Can You Refreeze Turkey?
If you must delay cooking, you can safely refreeze the thawed raw turkey. This stops bacteria growth but may reduce the quality of the meat. When ready to cook, thaw the turkey again in the fridge.
Wrap raw turkey tightly in plastic wrap or freezer bags, pressing out air. Proper wrapping prevents freezer burn.
Storing Leftover Cooked Turkey
Cooked turkey lasts 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Divide turkey into shallow containers so it cools quickly. Don't overstuff the fridge—cold air needs to circulate.
Store white and dark meat separately to prevent drying out. Keep bones attached or remove meat entirely.
Remember, cooked turkey that has been sitting out for two hours or more should be tossed to prevent food poisoning.
Dishes made with leftover turkey, such as a soup or casserole, can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or can be frozen to store longer.
Don't throw out that turkey carcass, use it to make turkey broth!
When reheating turkey and sides after fridge storage, heat to an internal temperature of 165°F.
For moist turkey, add broth when reheating in the microwave. Use shallow containers so they reheat evenly.
You can also reheat turkey and gravy in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
Avoid reheating turkey and sides more than once. Texture and moisture content degrade with each reheating.
Follow the "hot-cold" rule. After 1-2 days raw or 3-4 days cooked in the fridge, leftover turkey should be discarded or frozen for longer storage.
More Turkey Safety Tips
- Do not rinse your turkey, even after you brine it. The water creates a splash that can spread harmful bacteria.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with hot water and soap before and after handling raw meat.
- Wipe down the kitchen counter and wash all utensils after prepping your turkey.
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure your turkey is fully cooked. Check in at least 3 places.
What to Serve with Roasted Turkey