How long does turkey last in the fridge? The best ways to store cooked turkey over the holidays

Learn how long turkey will last in the fridge for and make the most of all your festive holiday leftovers, safely

Carving a turkey
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you enjoyed a great Thanksgiving Day feast, Christmas Day dinner, or a casual mid-week turkey roast (it could happen) then you may be wondering how long will turkey last in the fridge. It's an important question, to not only help you reduce food waste but to also avoid your food spoiling which can lead to food poisoning — no one needs that.  

Whether you cooked your bird in the oven or your air fryer, storing it properly is essential. The CDC has lots of information on taking care of holiday leftovers (opens in new tab) and we've put together a quick how-to guide also.

How to refrigerate leftover turkey

Once cooked, you should store your turkey leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours and when cool. 

Cooked turkey can be kept in the fridge for three to four days but you can freeze leftovers you want to keep longer. 

The process of storing it safely starts as soon as you have carved what you need for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

How to store leftover turkey

  • Cover the cooked meat loosely with foil as it cools to avoid any airborne bacteria landing on it. 
  • Once it has cooled, wrap it completely or cut up and store in a food storage container, before putting it in the fridge.
  • Do not store it under or next to uncooked meat as the juices could contaminate it.

Every time you use some, make sure you practice good food hygiene by washing your hands before handling and chopping on a clean board that has not been in contact with raw meat. Always re-wrap the turkey before returning it to the fridge, and don't let it sit out of the fridge for too long between uses.

How can you tell if turkey is bad?

If cooked turkey has gone bad, you can usually tell by the smell and texture. It may seem slimy in texture and smell strong, discard it if this is the case and to avoid this at all costs, use our advice!

Want to ensure your refrigerator is keeping food at a safe temperature? It might be time for our new one — give one of these bestsellers that are on offer a go. Or check out our buying guide to the best fridge freezers.

How to freeze leftover turkey

Cooked turkey can be safely stored in the freezer at 0˚F or less, for up to six months although some will be past its best after only two. Be sure to check CDC's website (opens in new tab) for full advice:

  • Let the turkey cool then slice the meat or cut it into more manageable chunks.
  • Wrap them individually in foil and seal them in Ziplo freezer (opens in new tab) bags
  • Wrap it tightly to avoid freezer burn
  • Freeze the meat on the day it's been cooked
  • Label your bag with the date (in case you forget!)
  • Always defrost thoroughly before using it.

How to safely reheat cooked turkey

There are so many things you can do to avoid wasting your leftover turkey. The first day or two after cooking, it can be sliced and eaten cold on sandwiches. Later on, you will probably want to reheat it before eating.

To reheat, always check the turkey is piping hot through to the center before eating. If you use it to make a curry or other hot dish, remember that reheated curry should not be reheated again, so make the amount you need and don't be tempted to store the leftovers — reheat the meat only once. 

  • You can check the FDA (opens in new tab) for more advice.
  • If you're UK-based, you can check the Food Safety UK site (opens in new tab) for more advice.
Lindsey Davis
Editor in Chief, Homes Ecommerce

Lindsey is Editor of Realhomes.com and Editor in Chief for Home Ecommerce at Future. She is here to give you aspirational, yet attainable ideas for your home and works with her team to help you get the best buys, too. She has written about homes and interiors for the best part of a decade for brands including Homes & Gardens, Ideal Home and Gardeningetc and isn't afraid to take the inspiration she finds at work into her own space – a Victorian terrace which she has been (slowly) remodelling for the last eight years. She is happiest sipping a cup of tea with a cat on her lap (if only she had a cat).

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