Storing

  1. How long can a turkey be stored?
  2. Is my frozen turkey still good?
  3. How long past the sell by date is a fresh turkey product still safe to eat?
  4. We forgot to put the turkey in the fridge after dinner and it's been sitting out all night. Can we still eat it?
  5. Our turkey is done but we're not planning to eat for a while. What should we do?
  6. I didn't realize I wasn't supposed to leave the turkey on the counter to thaw. Will it be okay to use?
  7. If I leave the turkey in the trunk overnight, is it safe to cook and eat?
  8. How long can a frozen turkey be kept in the freezer?

How long can a turkey be stored?

When a fresh turkey or turkey breast is purchased and frozen by the consumer in a home freezer, it should be used within one year for best results (Source: FSIS/USDA).

Is my frozen turkey still good?

When a fresh turkey or turkey breast is purchased and frozen by the consumer in a home freezer, it should be used within one year for best quality (Source: FSIS/USDA). When freezing fresh poultry, do note that without the aid of a blast freezer (used commercially to freeze at a very rapid rate), you may experience a slight loss in quality. Slow freezing increases ice-crystal formation, which can negatively affect the quality of your fresh turkey.

How long past the sell by date is a fresh turkey product still safe to eat?

Once a fresh poultry product has been purchased and placed in a home refrigerator, it should be used or frozen within 2-3 days. Regardless of how far away the sell by or expiration date on the packaging states. This is due to the fact that unlike a commercial grade cooler, a home refrigerator cannot maintain a cold enough or constant enough temperature to keep fresh poultry wholesome for an extended period of time.

However, the best way to tell if a product is still good is by smell and touch. If the product does not smell spoiled and if it does not feel slimy then it should be fine to properly cook and consume. Of course, do use your good judgment and if you are not sure, it is best to discard the product.

We forgot to put the turkey in the fridge after dinner and it's been sitting out all night. Can we still eat it?

No. At room temperature, hazardous bacterial growth may have occurred after that length of time. You should dispose of the turkey.

Our turkey is done but we're not planning to eat for a while. What should we do?

Take the turkey out of the oven. Cover it with foil and clean towels to hold in the heat. If it will be several hours before you eat, remove the turkey from the oven and cool the oven down to 150° to 200° F. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and put it back in the oven to stay warm until you're ready to eat. The meat will be less juicy than if you'd served it immediately, but it will be safe to eat.

I didn't realize I wasn't supposed to leave the turkey on the counter to thaw. Will it be okay to use?

Next time, thaw turkey the safe way: in the refrigerator. For now, if the turkey is still cold to the touch and smells fine, your risk is probably small. Be sure to cook it properly and to the correct internal temperature (use a meat thermometer to determine doneness).

If I leave the turkey in the trunk overnight, is it safe to cook and eat?

Microorganisms that can cause food spoilage and food-borne illness can grow rapidly at unrefrigerated temperatures. If you accidentally leave your turkey in the trunk of your car, it is best to discard it and purchase a new one.

How long can a frozen turkey be kept in the freezer?

Turkeys can be kept in the freezer for a year without issue. The problem that arises with product in the freezer isn’t a food safety concern but more of a quality concern. Oxidation takes place over time and can result in off flavors.