How Long will Leftover Turkey Last in the Fridge?

You’re not alone if you’re wondering how long leftover turkey will stay in the fridge. It can be challenging to answer because turkey stays fresh in the refrigerator for a short time. While there is no exact rule for the number of days cooked turkey will keep in the fridge, Dr. Snyder points to the USDA FoodKeeper app to get the most precise guidance.

Frozen leftovers must be eaten within six months, and cooked turkey must be consumed within four days. In a casserole or sandwich, leftover turkey is a welcome addition but only if it has been properly preserved. To help you with this, we asked a food safety expert to offer her what you should know about leftover turkey, including the safest storage methods and how long it lasts in the fridge or freezer.

How Long will Leftover Turkey Last in the Fridge?

Once cooked, you should put any leftover turkey in the fridge as soon as it’s cool and within a few hours. You can store cooked turkey in the refrigerator for three to four days. You can begin keeping it safe as soon as you have prepared the necessary carvings for Thanksgiving dinner.

After the turkey has been cooked, refrigerated leftovers are often acceptable to eat within three to four days. Still, a lot depends on your unique situation, notably how properly the turkey was first prepared and how quickly the leftovers were stored. The shelf life of leftovers can be almost endlessly extended by freezing.

Most food authorities advise eating any leftover turkey within four days of storing it in the refrigerator. The mere fact that the meat is theoretically acceptable does not eliminate the possibility of bacterial contamination or food poisoning. Even so, it’s crucial to thoroughly reheat leftovers and take note of their flavor, texture, and color.

On properly preserved foods, at least, it typically takes hazardous germs longer to start developing. The meat may become vulnerable to mold and other growths after four days, resulting in food illness. Tossing anything stored beyond this stage is usually safer, even if the meat appears good.

For large quantities of turkey and “combination” meals that include meat parts, such as soups, stews, and casseroles, freezing is frequently the best storage method. Before storing, it is frequently a good idea to write the date on the containers to make it simple to recall how long they have been frozen.

How to Reheat Leftover Turkey?

There are two ways to reheat leftover turkey: in the fridge or on the stove. The refrigerator thawing method is the simplest, but it may take several hours, days, or weeks. Reheating it without thawing is fine if cooked as long as the temperature stays above 165 degrees.

You have a lot of options for how to use up your leftover turkey. It can be sliced and served cold on sandwiches within the first or two days of cooking. You should probably reheat it before eating it later.

It’s important to plan and avoid leaving it out for too long. Thawing in a cold water bath takes less time but is more difficult. Even though reheating turkey kills some bacteria, it doesn’t eliminate heat-resistant toxins. While reheating will kill bacteria, it won’t destroy them.

Reheating at 90 degrees or more will shorten its shelf life. In addition, the temperature of the reheating process increases the risk of foodborne illnesses. Bacteria causing food poisoning, especially in the form of anemia, can multiply when cooked meat is exposed to high temperatures.

How to Use leftover Turkey for Filling Pie?

If you’re looking for a delicious method to use leftover turkey, try making a pot pie. Not only is this a great gluten-free and dairy-free option, but it’s also a delicious way to use leftover turkey from Thanksgiving dinner.

Roll out the dough to 11 inches for a 9-inch pie plate to make your pie crust. Then, in a large skillet, saute celery, carrots, and onion until soft. Sprinkle flour on top and bake up until the crust is golden brown. When using leftover turkey, make sure to cut it into 2-inch pieces.

Add any extra veggies to the pot pie. You can use parsnips, broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts to add more nutrients to the pie. If you’re worried about using too much turkey, you can always use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. You can also use dairy-free milk to make the pie more palatable.

How to Store leftover Turkey in an Airtight Container?

The same basic principles apply to leftover turkey as to any other meat, including thawing, cooking, and storage. To preserve the freshness of meat, the four-day countdown begins the day after it is cooked, not from when it was reheated. Regardless of how often you reheat leftover turkey, most food safety experts suggest not exceeding that amount.

Moreover, it would help if you refrigerated leftover turkey no more than two days after eating it. When it comes to preserving meats, a well-sealed airtight container is the best solution. This will help you extend the life of the meat.

While turkey is generally safe to eat after three to four days, the quality of its taste and texture will decrease. For this reason, it is important to reheat leftovers properly before consuming them. While reheating will make the meat palatable, it will not extend its shelf life.

Reference: The Effect of Irradiation and Modified Atmosphere Packaging on the Quality of Intact Chill-stored Turkey Breast.

If you are unsure how to determine whether the cooked leftover turkey is terrible, You’ve come to the right site. As a starting point, remember that a whole turkey can weigh anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds, making it a very important feast. Then, it would be best to consider how long the meat has been out.

Leftover turkey is susceptible to the growth of harmful bacteria if it’s not refrigerated for at least three hours. A few days after cooking the turkey, the meat will degrade in quality. It may have a slimy or grayish appearance. Here are some signs of spoiled turkey.

It will also smell sour. It would be best if you always discarded any turkey that has gone bad sooner rather than later. Refrigerating leftover turkey will slow down the growth of bacteria but not stop it. Once it’s past the first four days, you must eat it within a few days.

How to Thaw Frozen Turkey?

Turkey should never be let sit at room temperature for longer than two hours, nor should it be defrosted from frozen on the counter or in hot water. Moving the frozen package from the freezer onto a plate and into the refrigerator, where it may thaw gradually, is the ideal way to defrost turkey (either whole or in bits). This technique can take a full day, depending on the size of what you’re defrosting.

A defrosted raw frozen turkey can be kept in the fridge for one to two days before it needs to be cooked or refrozen. There is a quicker way you may utilize to thaw your turkey quickly. Please ensure the turkey is sealed, then immerse it in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes to ensure the thawing process continues. To avoid bacteria from forming, you can also thaw frozen turkey pieces in the microwave, but if you do, you should prepare to cook it right away.


Ensure that the meat is stored in an airtight container. Although wrapping with plastic film or metal foil can also be effective, a plastic bag or snap-top box is typically the best option. The major goal is limiting the air that can contact the leftovers. Everything must be as airtight as possible, especially for meat going into the freezer. Excess oxygen can cause freezer burn. Although freezer burn isn’t technically a food safety issue, it might ruin the flavor of your leftovers.

Normally, it is a good idea to remove the meat from the bone or, at the absolute least, cut it into little pieces before storing it. As this will enable it to cool more quickly and evenly, breaking leftovers into a few shallow containers as opposed to putting them all in one large container is also advised. Generally, any time throughout the four-day timeframe is deemed safe to consume cold turnkey straight from the refrigerator. It frequently takes a little more skill to reheat turkey that has been frozen or kept properly.