How Long can I Freeze a Turkey?

Christmas planning is already stressful enough without worrying about when to purchase all the food. It undoubtedly helps to feel less anxious if you can order a turkey well in advance. How long can one be frozen, though?

Although raw turkey can be safely preserved indefinitely, for the best flavor and freshness, it should be eaten within three to four months. It is recommended to refrigerate frozen turkey rather than thaw it at room temperature. It must be refrozen no later than two days after purchase or two days after the sell-by date.

The rest of the post will address some often-asked topics about how to freeze and preserve a turkey properly.


How Long can I Freeze a Turkey?

According to USDA recommendations, the turkey should be stored for three to four months. On the other hand, they claim that these storage times are for the “highest quality.” Because of this, eating ground turkey after 3–4 months won’t necessarily be dangerous. Simply put, the flavor won’t be as good. Maintaining the freezer at 0 °F or lower is always recommended.

According to USDA guidelines, turkey is safe to eat for an unlimited period if it is consistently frozen. Countless individuals adhere to this general principle. Bacteria that could lead to sickness cannot flourish as long as it is frozen. While something may have been maintained entirely frozen the entire time in a home-freezing environment, it can be challenging to be certain of that.

How to Freeze Turkey?

Whether or not the fresh turkey has been prepared will determine how to freeze it.

You may freeze a whole turkey by keeping it in its original packaging. It doesn’t need to be unwrapped and rewrapped. To prevent the turkey from being contaminated by any food odors in the freezer, adding an additional layer of aluminum foil to the covering may be a good idea.

To wrap the parts for fresh turkey before freezing them, use freezer bags or tightly clinging cellophane. To ensure that you know exactly when the turkey parts were put in the freezer, it is usually a good idea to write the date on the bag or wrap.

Ensuring the turkey is placed in the deepest section of the freezer can also be a smart idea. The temperature will rise slightly every time the freezer door is opened, which is more of a concern for foods stored on the door shelves or near the front.

When should I Defrost my Turkey?

You must ensure enough time for your turkey to thaw before you cook it because it can take a long time to defrost safely. Additionally, your chosen method will determine how long the turkey will take to thaw.

The USDA advises gradual thawing in the refrigerator. The advantage of this method is that you can reasonably be sure that the turkey has completely defrosted. For every 4-5 pounds of a turkey using this method, allow one day for thawing.

You have a few alternative options if you don’t have a day or more to wait for your turkey to defrost.

To defrost a turkey using cold water, it must be kept in its packaging or an airtight bag and submerged in the water. To keep the water cool, you should replace it every 30 minutes. If you begin the process early enough, you can use this approach the day you cook your turkey since you need to allow 30 minutes for each pound of meat.

If you use a microwave to defrost the turkey, you should cook it immediately. Defrosting in the microwave is certainly the fastest way, but it also has the potential to go wrong the most. It’s possible that some of the turkeys began to cook during the microwave process, and it’s dangerous to store partially cooked food.

Is Frozen Turkey as Good as Fresh?

There shouldn’t be a difference in quality between frozen and fresh turkey if you get a pre-frozen turkey from the store. This is because the turkey is immediately flash-frozen after packaging.

Since freezing stops the deterioration of the meat, the frozen turkey should be exactly like it was when it was first packaged. When freezing fresh turkey at home can become a little more challenging.

It will keep the characteristics it had when it was frozen after being frozen. As a result, if the turkey is thawed, it won’t become fully fresh if it is kept in the refrigerator for a day or so before being frozen. The quality won’t improve; it will remain the same as when frozen, which might not be as nice as if it had been consumed or frozen when it was fresh.

What does a Frozen Turkey’s Sell-by Date Mean?

On a frozen turkey, there are three different types of dates that you might encounter, and not all of them are directly related to food safety.

The sell-by date designates the final day a business may stock and sell a turkey. After that date, the turkey is still safe to consume. Similarly, a best-before date denotes the final day after which the turkey’s flavor, texture, etc. of the turkey should be at its peak. Moreover, it makes no mention of food safety.

It would be ideal if you avoided consuming turkey that had passed its expiration date. However, the use-by date is a sign of the safety of the food. It is the final day the turkey can be safely consumed.

If you freeze the turkey at home, the dates in each of these situations are meaningless. The expiration dates are unnecessary if you have frozen the turkey before it becomes dangerous. However, it would be best if you followed the instructions for storing frozen turkey instead. If kept at 0 °F or lower, fresh turkey can be consumed indefinitely but is at its best when consumed within four months.

How Much Ahead of Time should I Purchase Fresh Turkey?

One to two days before cooking, you should purchase a fresh turkey. Because turkey spoils quickly, it’s crucial to make arrangements to ensure that you can obtain the bird in time for the planned cooking date. It must always be kept in a refrigerator at 40 °F or lower.

If getting a turkey so close to the holiday won’t be possible, purchasing a fresh turkey ahead of time and freezing it can be a decent alternative. Once it has thawed, the turkey will still be the same high quality as if you had just purchased it.

What Signs Point to a Bad Frozen Turkey?

Utilizing your senses can sometimes make it simple to determine if your turkey has gone rancid. One sure sign is the scent; with turkey, you can count on it to smell bad and possibly like sulfur or rotten eggs. The turkey may be strange to look at as well. The skin might, for instance, appear slimy.

While some foodborne infections have little effect on the appearance of the meat, they can nonetheless make you sick. Unfortunately, it is not always feasible to determine whether a turkey has been poisoned simply by looking at it or how it smells. Making sure you adhere to all the recommended storing, thawing, and cooking instructions is your best defense against them.


The stench will be the first and most evident indication that the turkey has gone bad. A fresh turkey should not have a fragrance comparable to a rotten chicken’s indicators.

To smell a raw turkey, take it out of the packaging and set it on a plate or chopping board for a few minutes so it can air.

To avoid getting a fake smell, this lets out any gases that might have been trapped in the package.

Give the raw turkey a good sniff while keeping your nose about 6 inches away. Nothing should smell to you.

Your turkey is bad if it has a sulfuric, rotten egg, sour, or rancid odor. Any gamey, unpleasant aromas are another sign that the turkey has gone bad.

These are indications that microbes have begun to destroy the meat and degrade the turkey.


Inspecting the skin can determine if a turkey has gone rotten. There shouldn’t be any cuts or bruises on the skin, and it should appear white and pink. The skin should also appear dry and smooth.

The color of the turkey had changed from when you purchased it and has turned grey, indicating that it is no longer fresh.

If you see any dullness or greyness, you should throw away the skin since it will turn darker as it rots.

Additionally, check for any obvious tumors, black patches, or shattered bones.


The skin of a raw turkey should be dry and smooth. Sliminess is a surefire indicator that the turkey has gone bad and needs to be thrown out.

Since bacteria activity has expanded and damaged it, slimy turkey typically goes hand in hand with foul-smelling turkey.

By the time the turkey reaches this stage, it is safe to state that it belongs in the garbage. If you cook it, you risk contracting foodborne illnesses like salmonella.

What are the Health Benefits of Consuming Turkey?

Rich in Vital Minerals and Vitamins

The necessary amino acids that your body requires are all present in turkey. Selenium, an antioxidant mineral abundant in turkey, may help shield cells from damage brought on by free radicals.

Vitamin B6, which supports a strong immune system and assists with energy production, is abundant in turkey breast. In addition, it’s a good source of zinc, selenium, and niacin. Niacin aids in brain function and the conversion of food into energy.

Very High Protein Content

An excellent source of protein is turkey flesh. All nine essential amino acids the body needs to function properly are present in it. Turkey meat can contain anywhere between 24% and 28% protein. This makes it an excellent source of protein for people trying to get in shape or lose weight.

Protein maintains enzymes that aid in energy metabolism and help create and repair bodily tissues. Protein also aids in the development of muscular mass, preventing muscle loss as you age. Protein also prolongs your feeling of fullness after eating, preventing you from getting hungry rapidly.

Fantastic Low-Calorie Meals

Compared to other meats like beef or pork, turkey has fewer than half the calories. While an 85-gram serving of cooked beef brisket contains more than 300 calories, an 85-gram serving of cooked turkey breast has only 160 calories!

The high protein content of turkey makes it an excellent food for bodybuilders.

Reference: Protein hydrolysate from turkey meat and optimization of its antioxidant potential by response surface methodology

This study aimed to assess the antioxidant activity of hydrolysates from beef, chicken, and turkey meat and to maximize the antioxidant potential of hydrolyzed protein using Flavourzyme assistance. The ideal Flavourzyme hydrolysis parameters for preparing a hydrolysate from turkey flesh were found using response surface methodology (RSM). They were 50.09°C, a pH of 5.42, and a processing period of 1.08 hours.


Turkey is a good source of protein. It contains zinc, selenium, and B vitamins. It also contains potassium, phosphorus, and a little magnesium. Aside from being a good protein source, ground turkey can be used in various recipes.

When freezing, keeping the meat in an airtight container is important. This will help keep harmful bacteria from multiplying. It is also important to freeze the meat at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17.8 degrees Celsius).