Can You Freeze Turkey After It’s Been Cooked? 

Last updated on August 20th, 2022 at 11:31 am

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Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching and many people will be cooking a big turkey for their family gatherings. Some gatherings have more than one turkey or even have a turkey and a ham or some other meat. 

There are bound to be leftovers and you will want to know how to store that leftover turkey. 

Leftover turkey will keep in the fridge for three to four days. If you need your turkey to keep longer than that can you freeze it? 

You can freeze cooked turkey. If you store your cooked leftover turkey in the freezer, it will stay good for three to six months.

That will give you plenty of time after the holidays to eat your turkey rather than getting fed up with eating it for every meal for a week straight! Just put the cooked turkey into a freezer bag or airtight container and pop it in the freezer. 

When Should You Freeze Your Leftover Turkey? 

If you decided to freeze your turkey you might be wondering when you should do that. Should you freeze your turkey right away or can you leave it in the fridge a few days before freezing it? 

For the best results you should freeze your cooked turkey within twenty-four hours of cooking it. This will give you the maximum freezer life for your turkey. 

What if you stored your turkey in the fridge after dinner and it’s now been three days but there is still a lot leftover? You can still freeze your turkey. 

Turkey lasts in the fridge for three to four days so if you realize that you are not going to use it all in that time frame you can still pop it in the freezer. 

However it won’t be as fresh when you thaw it back out so if you know you are going to have a lot of turkey leftover it’s best to freeze it sooner rather than later. 

How Do You Freeze Cooked Turkey? 

So you know you can freeze turkey and you know when to freeze it but how should you freeze it? Thankfully,  freezing cooked turkey is actually pretty easy. 

To freeze your cooked turkey all you need is some freezer safe containers or bags and to let your turkey cool before putting it in the freezer. 

The first thing you want to do is make sure that your turkey has completely cooled. If you do not allow your turkey to cool completely before freezing it you will have ice crystals in or on your turkey. Once your turkey has cooled you will then cut it how you want it frozen. 

You can slice your turkey so that you can take it out to use in sandwiches. You can shred it to use later in tacos or cut it into cubes to be used in soups or pot pie. 

Once you have the turkey cut the way that you want you just need to separate it into the portions that you will want for later use. 

Place your turkey into your freezer safe containers. Label your containers with the date and contents. If you are using freezer safe plastic bags to store your turkey make sure that you remove all the air from the bag to avoid freezer burn. 

If you are going to use storage containers try to use containers that you can fill to avoid extra air in your container and avoid freezer burn. 

Your turkey will last in your freezer for two to six months. When it is time to use your frozen cooked turkey, you simply need to place it in the fridge and allow it to thaw. 

If you are using the turkey in soup, you can place the frozen turkey directly into the soup to reheat.

How Long Is Raw Turkey Good In The Freezer? 

I love stocking up on turkey when it goes on sale around Thanksgiving. My family likes to eat turkey not only for Thanksgiving but Christmas, Easter, and just a regular day during the year. My kids might come to me and ask “Can we have Thanksgiving dinner?” at virtually any time of the year. I like to be able to tell them yes, why should I make them wait and only get an amazingly delicious meal like Thanksgiving in November? 

My youngest has requested a Thanksgiving type dinner at the end of summer before. So, I like to stock up on turkeys in November when I can get them for twenty to fifty cents a pound. 

How long can you keep an uncooked turkey in the freezer? 

According to the Minnesota Department of Health an uncooked turkey can be kept in the freezer indefinitely. However, for the best results you will want to cook that turkey in a year.

So feel free to stock up on turkey around the holidays and use it all year around! 

How Can You Speed Up Thawing A Turkey?

The safest way to thaw a turkey is to thaw it on the lowest possible shelf of your fridge away from other food and in a pan. However, this thawing process takes days. 

You will need to leave that turkey in the fridge for twenty-four hours for every five pounds of turkey. If you purchased a fifteen-pound turkey then you will need to allow that turkey to defrost in your fridge for three days. 

You might want to put that turkey in the fridge a day early just to make sure it has a chance to thaw all the way. You can keep a completely thawed turkey in your fridge for two days before you will need to cook it. 

What can you do if you forgot to take your turkey out of the freezer? 

To thaw your turkey quickly you can use the cold-water bath method. Put your turkey into cold water and continuously change the water out making sure that it stays cold. This will allow your turkey to thaw in hours rather than days. 

I have personally used this method several times, especially when my kid asks for turkey for their birthday dinner the night before. 

You will need thirty minutes for every pound that your frozen turkey weighs. If you have a fifteen-pound turkey it will take seven and a half hours to thaw in a cold-water bath. 

All you need to do is submerge your packaged turkey in cold water from your faucet. Every thirty minutes you will need to empty the water and refill your sink with cold water. Make sure to change your water every thirty minutes to safely thaw your turkey. 

When you have thawed your turkey using the cold-water bath method you will need to cook your turkey right away. You can also use a combination of the fridge method and the cold-water bath method. You can place your turkey in the fridge a day or two ahead of time but if you notice that it is still a little frozen you can use the water bath method to finish defrosting your turkey before you cook it.

If you have run out of time and you need to get the turkey into the oven right away do not try to thaw your turkey by running warm water over it. Some people have tried to use a blow dryer to defrost a turkey quickly. People have even left the frozen turkey on the counter to thaw. 

Do not try any of these methods. 

They will put the turkey into the “danger zone” of between 40 and 140 degrees for too long. Allowing the turkey to remain in the “danger zone” increases the chance of food poisoning. If you do not have any time to thaw your turkey out any longer it is perfectly safe to cook a frozen or partially frozen turkey. 

You will roast your turkey at 325 degrees and increase the cooking time by 50 percent if fully frozen or 25 percent if partially frozen. As soon as the turkey has thawed enough to do so you will need to take the turkey out of the oven to remove the giblets and season your turkey then place it back into the oven to finish cooking. 

The temperature of the oven keeps the turkey out of the “danger zone” temperature while it defrosts and then cooks.

Hannah R.

Hey, I'm Hannah and I'm the founder of Get Eatin'.

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