How Long Can A Thawed Turkey Stay In The Fridge?

Last Updated on November 3, 2022 by E.Pery

Most people choose to buy a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving. But as soon as they do, they begin to calculate how long it will take to thaw it.

The worst experience to have before Thanksgiving is to wake up on the holiday morning to find that the large poultry has not entirely defrosted. However, thawing your turkey days before Thanksgiving could be just as bad. You would probably feel hesitant to eat a thawed turkey in the fridge because you are not sure whether it’s safe to eat or not.

According to the USDA, a thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking

So how long can a thawed turkey stay in the fridge before cooking? Let us review the following FAQs to answer this question.

How Long Can A Thawed Turkey Stay In The Fridge?
How Long Can A Thawed Turkey Stay In The Fridge?

How long does it take to thaw a turkey in the refrigerator?

It takes about 24 hours to defrost five pounds of turkey. However, it is always good to tack on an extra 24 hours if the turkey takes longer to defrost.

Thawing your turkey in the refrigerator will take longer than other methods of defrosting. So, ensure that you have adequate time to defrost the turkey before Thanksgiving.

To defrost the turkey, place it with the breast side up in its original wrapping on a tray with a rack in the fridge. Ensure the refrigerator is 40 degrees F or below.

If you intend to brine your turkey in a dry brine or a brine solution, do it while it’s still partially frozen.

The thawed turkey can stay between 2 to 4 days in the fridge after thawing. After four days in the refrigerator, this poultry will begin to grow bacteria and cause food poisoning.

How can I safely thaw a frozen turkey?

There are three common ways of thawing a frozen turkey.

  1. You can defrost it in a refrigerator
  2. in cold water
  3. in a microwave.

How long a thawed turkey stays in the refrigerator without spoiling depends on the method used to thaw it.

However, the best way to thaw your turkey is to defrost it in the fridge. Not only is this defrosting method easy, but it is also the safest.

Recommended reading: How long to defrost a turkey?

The slow thawing of frozen turkey allows for minimum growth of bacteria, which causes foodborne illness.

However, thawing in the fridge takes the longest time, so if you are in a hurry, you can thaw your turkey in a microwave because it takes 6 minutes to defrost a pound of turkey fully.

If the turkey is too big to fit in your microwave, defrost using cold water, which thaws a pound of turkey in 30 minutes.

Recommended reading: 
> How Long to Defrost Turkey?
> How To Defrost A Refrigerator? [6 Simple Tips]

How long does it take to thaw a turkey in cold water?

If you realize that the turkey is still partially frozen on Thanksgiving morning, you could defrost it using the cold water method.

To do this, dip the frozen turkey in a large bowl full of cold water. To make sure that the turkey remains fully submerged, use a lead to press it down.

Check the temperature of the water to ensure it is cold enough. If the tap water is not hard enough, add ice cubes and change it every 30 minutes. Each pound of turkey takes an average of thirty minutes to thaw.

So if you have a turkey that weighs about 16 pounds, it will take an average of 8 hours to thaw completely. So if you want to have the turkey in the afternoon, you need to start melting from 4 a.m. Each time you change the water, check the turkey to gauge how it is thawing.

To know whether the turkey is fully thawed, feel the texture of the breast meat. It should be soft and springy. The legs should also move easily in the sockets, and the interior of the turkey should not have ice crystals.

Remember to thoroughly clean the sink and bowl after defrosting the fridge to prevent contaminating other pieces of utensils or foodstuffs with bacteria.

Do not refreeze a turkey thawed in cold water. Once the turkey is thawed, cook it immediately after t0 to prevent the growth of bacteria.

How long does it take to thaw a turkey in a microwave?

The size of the turkey you have determines whether this method of thawing will be feasible for you or not. So before you defrost your turkey in the microwave, check from the manual the size of the turkey that the microwave can fit.

You should also check the amount of time it will take to thaw the turkey per pound and the power level to use when thawing it.

To defrost the turkey using this method, remove the outside wrapping and place it in the microwave. The microwave-safe dish will catch all the juices dripping down from the turkey. Use the defrost function of the microwave depending on the weight of your turkey.

It is recommended to allow 6 minutes to defrost a pound of turkey when defrosting it in the microwave. Rotate the turkey several times and flip it during the thawing process to ensure that it defrosts evenly.

Sometimes the turkey begins to cook instead of defrosting when using this method. If this happens, let the turkey rest for five minutes before you resume the thawing process.

You could also cover the drumsticks and the tips of the wings with small pieces of kitchen foil to prevent them from cooking as they are getting.

It would be best if you never thawed a turkey on the counter. Room temperature encourages bacterial growth on the turkey that could cause foodborne illnesses. You should also never use a blow-drier or warm water to thaw a turkey.

These thawing methods are wrong because they put the turkey at risk of getting into the danger zone. This danger zone is between 40°F and 140°F. Defrosting the turkey in this temperature range puts you at risk of food poisoning.

Once the turkey is thawed, do not refreeze it. A turkey thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

If you have absolutely no time to defrost your turkey, you could roast it. Begin by setting the temperature in the oven at 325°F. Then increase the cooking time by 50 percent. If the turkey is partially frozen, you could increase the cooking time by about 25 percent.

This defrosting method works well because the oven’s high heat prevents the turkey from being exposed to the danger zone. The turkey gradually cooks as it thaws.

Can I keep a fresh turkey in the fridge for a week?

Many people are not concerned about refrigerating a turkey to be served two days before the date the turkey’s supposed to be sold.

If well refrigerated, a raw turkey can stay fresh in the fridge for 1-2 days.

It is not recommended to keep a whole turkey longer than this in the fridge. Suppose you want to cook your turkey much later. It would be best if you froze it. However, cold cuts can stay in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

To refrigerate a fresh whole turkey, create an airtight seal around it. You can also store it in an airtight bag but squeeze out all air before you seal the bag.

Place the turkey on a pan with a rack in the deepest part of the freezer. If well stored, the raw turkey should stay in the freezer for up to one year.

Recommended reading: Best Top Freezer Refrigerator [Top 5 Reviews]
Best Refrigerator Bottom Freezer [Top 5 Reviews]

If you are concerned about the safety of your bird, check whether the smell and texture are okay. If they are, bring the bird as soon as possible.

Brining the turkey can enable it to stay in the fridge for up to four days before roasting. Brining also protects the turkey against the growth of bacteria.

How long can a thawed turkey breast stay in the fridge?

The shelf life of a thawed turkey breast in the fridge is 2 days. If you don’t plan to cook the turkey right away after you’ve thawed it, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

If you’re not going to use your thawed turkey within 2 days, you’ll need to freeze it again. But don’t refreeze raw meat that’s been cooked already.

The best way to keep your cooked and/or raw turkey cold during storage is to put it on ice in an insulated cooler with ice packs or frozen water bottles. Make sure there’s enough room for air circulation so that the ice doesn’t melt too quickly and make everything else in your cooler wet and soggy.

If you are using your turkey breast as a sandwich filling, it can be refrigerated for up to three days. If you are using it in a casserole or other dish, you can store the meat in the refrigerator for up to five days. For the longest life, store your turkey breast in a covered container or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer.

If you want to keep meat for longer than two weeks, freeze it immediately after purchasing. While some people believe freezing meat ruins its flavor, freezing actually preserves the flavor of meat by slowing down bacterial growth and enzymatic changes that occur during storage at room temperature.

Freezing meat also helps prevent contamination from bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli that may be present in raw meats. Because these bacteria thrive at temperatures between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C), they can’t grow when frozen solid at 0°F (-18°C).

Can you refreeze a partially thawed turkey?

You can refreeze a partially thawed turkey, but it’s not recommended.

Thawing and refreezing meat can make it unsafe to eat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recommends cooking meat within two days after it has been thawed in the refrigerator or one day after being defrosted in cold water.

However, if your turkey was partially frozen before you put it in the freezer and there are still some ice crystals left in the package, you may safely refreeze it as long as everything remains cold. This means you should let your turkey sit out on the counter for about an hour before putting it back into the freezer.

Can you thaw a turkey too early?

The answer is “yes.” You can thaw a turkey too early.

The USDA recommends that you thaw the turkey in the refrigerator, rather than on your kitchen counter. This will ensure that the bird’s juices stay inside, instead of escaping into the sink or onto your countertop.

You can also submerge it in cold water to speed up the process, but this technique requires that you check on the turkey periodically to make sure it’s not sitting in water for too long and getting soggy (which could cause bacterial growth).

The best way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator and it takes time. If you have no choice but to thaw a bird at room temperature, here’s what you need to know:

Thawing a turkey in cold water or the microwave can cause bacteria to grow.

Thawing a turkey takes about 24 hours per 5 pounds of meat, so if you have a 15-pound turkey, it will take about 3 1/2 days for it to be ready for cooking.

You can speed up the process by submerging the turkey in cold water and changing out the water every 30 minutes. This method works best if your freezer is cold enough and if you don’t mind changing out the water every 30 minutes or so for several hours — not my favorite way to spend an afternoon!

If you don’t have time for full thawing, it’s better to cook a partially frozen bird than one that has been fully defrosted at room temperature because partially frozen turkeys cook more evenly than fully defrosted birds do.

Why do refrigerated turkeys go rancid?

Several factors determine how fresh the turkey in your refrigerator is. These factors include

  • the size of the turkey
  • How the turkey was butchered. It would be wise to find out how long the turkey was sitting on the block.
  • Was the turkey packed after being left seated for a long time or immediately?
  • How quickly was it put in a cold atmosphere before transporting temperature?
  • Was the turkey stored for a while before transport, or was it transported immediately?
  • In what conditions was the turkey transported?
  • Was the method of transportation used to expose the turkey to air?
  • Was the temperature in the transporting vehicle controlled?
  • How long did it stay at room temperature before being tossed into the fridge?
  • Was the temperature in the refrigerator well set before the turkey is stored?

These questions represent factors that could tamper with the turkey and make it go rancid in the fridge before its expected time.

So as soon as you get a turkey from the store, you should install a thermometer in your refrigerator to measure and monitor the temperature in the field.

Being careful of the above factors could prevent your turkey from going rancid just after two days. Storing a turkey in the freezer should not be a frustrating task.

You can avoid disappointment and massive food losses by keeping your turkey in the freezer if you do not intend to eat it right away. Then, leave a few days before Thanksgiving to allow the turkey to thaw before you cook it.

How Can I Store Leftover Turkey?

The best thing to do when you have leftover turkey is to throw it out.

When turkey stuffing and gravy are left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours or one hour in an atmosphere where the temperature is above 90 °F puts it in the danger zone, making the meal a source of food poisoning.

Alternatively, you can divide the leftover turkey into smaller portions and refrigerate them in parts. Divide the leftover into portions and seal them tightly with a kitchen wrap. Refrigerate these pieces in shallow containers for easier cooling.

Recommended reading: Refrigerator Not Cooling?

To be safe, use turkey stuffing within 3-4 days. Refrigerated gravy should be kept for no more than two days.

Bottom line

The amount of time that thawed turkey stays in the refrigerator is determined by the method used to defrost it.

A turkey defrosted through refrigeration can remain in the fridge for up to 2 days after thawing. In contrast, a turkey defrosted through the cold water and microwave method should be cooked immediately after thawing.

Thawing turkey using cold water and microwave methods tampers the turkey’s temperature and hence exposed it to the danger zone, which causes food poisoning.

So it is best to cook and share thawed turkey among family and friends on thanksgiving dinner without leaving leftovers. But if there are leftovers, it is best to toss them in the bins.