These days, it is normal for people to simply buy a frozen turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner.
It makes preparing and cooking the dinner easier for those with busy lifestyles because frozen turkey can be kept in the freezer for at least a year or two, provided it is unopened and kept at a temperature of 32°F.
However, almost everyone will tell you that turkey, and other kinds of poultry, taste the best when it is fresh.
Fresh turkey is kept in the refrigerator, but it does not last as long as frozen turkey, which is something to be aware of if you are planning on buying a fresh turkey for your next Thanksgiving dinner.
In this article, we will discuss how long a turkey can stay fresh in the refrigerator, and more! So, if this is of interest to you, then read on!
How Long Can A Turkey Stay Fresh In The Refrigerator?
As a general rule, fresh turkey can stay in the refrigerator for one to two days. It should be stored in the coldest section of your refrigerator, and then frozen if you do not think you will cook it within 48 hours.
If you leave the turkey in your refrigerator for longer than 48 hours, then it may start to spoil and will be unsafe to cook or eat.
What Is The Difference Between A Sell-By Date And Use By Date?
Now, you may see different brands of turkey in the grocery store showing a date with either “sell-by” along with a “use-by” on the packaging.
It is important to note that you must not use the “sell-by” date as a guide for when the turkey should be eaten.
The sell-by date is merely a guideline for sellers, and the use-by, or “best before” date is what consumers should use as a guide.
How Long Can A Thawed Turkey Stay Fresh In The Refrigerator?
Once you take a frozen turkey out of the freezer and wait for it to thaw, it will also have rules to follow when it comes to its freshness.
If you keep a previously frozen turkey in the refrigerator, then you will have one to two days to cook and eat it. After this time period is up, the turkey will start to go off and may not be safe to eat.
What Happens If You Leave The Turkey In The Refrigerator For Longer Than The Recommended Time?
If you leave and eat a refrigerated turkey after the recommended one to two days, then you risk becoming unwell.
This is because the turkey will start to spoil after this time period, and there are pathogens in spoiled meat that may not be the same pathogens that cause food poisoning but may still cause you to become unwell.
Sometimes, a turkey that is going bad will show signs such as:
- Odor similar to egg
- Slimy texture
If you consume spoiled meat and are a typically healthy adult, then you may suffer from an upset stomach.
However, elderly people, children, and anyone who is immunocompromised may become unwell with a more serious illness.
So, it is best to stick to the guidelines and dispose of your turkey after the recommended period of time, even if it looks or smells okay.
Even if eating spoiled meat does not make everyone sick, it will still taste very unpleasant, and so is better off avoided.
Are Stores Able To Store Turkey For Longer?
Yes, stores can keep turkey for longer than the recommended time period in the refrigerator. This is because they have better refrigeration techniques than the typical household, so the turkey will be safer for longer.
There are regular, routine inspections on the quality of commercial coolers. This means that they receive frequent maintenance and are always in the best working condition.
Workers also find it easy to be able to tell how cold the conditions of their coolers are. However, every time the door of a home refrigerator is opened it causes the refrigerator temperature to rise.
This causes a problem when it comes to fresh poultry storage. So, it is best to keep the door of the refrigerator closed as much as possible.
How Long Does Turkey Last Once It Has Been Cooked?
All cooked poultry, turkey included, will keep fresh in the refrigerator for three to four days after it has been cooked.
To ensure it maintains its freshness, the turkey should be stored in an airtight container and placed in the coldest section of the fridge. If you do not feel you can eat all of the leftover turkey within three to four days, then you must place it in the freezer.
However, if you have deli turkey as opposed to turkey that you have prepared yourself, then it will keep in the refrigerator for five days!
This is because deli turkey has been treated with additives, so it has a longer shelf life when compared to fresh turkey.
Freezing Turkey Tips
If you need to freeze your turkey, then we have some great tips! It may seem odd to purchase a fresh turkey and then freeze it, but it is the best way of preserving it if you do not think you’ll eat it within a set time frame.
The first thing you need to do is take five-six layers of plastic wrap. Wash your hands before touching the turkey, and then place it in the plastic wrap and cover it all. By covering all of the turkey, you are protecting it from freezer burn.
Now, all you need to do is place it in the deepest part of the freezer. It is best to cook it within a year of freezing and to make sure the temperature of the freezer is correct.
When it comes to freezing cooked turkey, you must first ensure that the turkey was refrigerated after cooking within two hours.
Once you have established this, you can use zip-top freezer bags (make sure they are heavy-duty) to freeze the turkey. Ensure that there is no air left in the bag, and label the bag with the date that you froze it. You need to thaw out and eat frozen, cooked turkey within six months of freezing.
When you purchase a fresh turkey, you need to refrigerate it as soon as you get home and cook it within two days, or else it will start to spoil and become unsafe to eat.
Fresh turkey that has been cooked and placed in the refrigerator needs to be eaten within three to four days, but deli turkey can be kept in the refrigerator for five days thanks to the additives.
You can freeze fresh turkey whether you have cooked it or not, provided you seal it in the best way before freezing.
Turkey that has been frozen but not cooked can be thawed out and cooked within a year of freezing, but fresh turkey that has been cooked and then frozen needs to be eaten within six months of freezing.
So, there you have it! We hope this article told you everything you need to know about refrigerating your fresh turkey. Best of luck!