How long is too long? 

By Corey Williams
July 27, 2020
Advertisement

If there’s one surefire way to ruin a Thanksgiving, it’s serving your family a spoiled turkey. Here’s what you need to know about freezing a turkey safely: 

How Long Can You Keep a Raw, Frozen Turkey? 

jax10289/Getty Images

You can keep a frozen turkey for a whopping two years, according to Butterball. 

Make sure the meat stays frozen for the entire time. For instance, if your power went out during the storage period and your turkey began to thaw, throw it out. It’s also important to make sure it stays in its original packaging (and that the packaging and vacuum seal is intact with no holes or tears). 

How to Store a Frozen Turkey

GMVozd/Getty Images

As long as you keep your turkey in its original packaging and the freezer temperature is constantly set at 0℉ or lower, you should be good. 

What About Cooked Turkey?

Photo: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck

Yes, you can freeze cooked turkey—but you’ll want to thaw and consume it within a couple months instead of a couple years. 

How Do to Tell If the Turkey Has Gone Bad

Most store-bought frozen turkeys will feature a use-by date on the packaging, but you should really use your senses and logic to tell if your turkey has gone bad. 

If your turkey is slimy, discolored, or has a weird smell, throw it out (even if it hasn’t reached its expiration date). 

How to Thaw a Frozen Turkey

Corey Williams / MyRecipes

The best way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator, but you can also thaw it in cold water. 

To thaw your turkey in the fridge, it’s important to plan ahead. It’ll take about one day per 4-5 pounds to completely thaw. So, if your turkey weighs 20 pounds, you’ll need to move it to the refrigerator about five days before Thanksgiving. 

How Long Can You Keep a Turkey In the Fridge? 

pamela_d_mcadams/Getty Images

Of course, if you plan to eat your turkey within the next few days it only makes sense to store it in the refrigerator. Store uncooked turkey in the fridge for about two days and store cooked turkey in the fridge for three to four days.