How Long Can You Freeze A Whole Turkey?
It is best if you only keep a whole turkey in the freezer for 6 to 12 months. If you keep it frozen for a longer period, the meat will begin to degrade and its taste will take a different quality. Ensure you properly cover the turkey with plastic wrap before freezing.
Make sure to defrost the turkey in the refrigerator, rather than simply leaving it on your counter or sticking it in the oven. It may even be a good idea to ensure that you put the turkey in the deepest part of your freezer. If you are going to be storing the turkey in your freezer, you want to make sure it is located in the deepest area of your freezer.
If you do not have that, then you should put your turkey on a trivet and put your turkey at the very back of a lower shelf. If you have a second fridge large enough to hold a turkey, consider using it instead.
Either way, place the bird on the back of the fridge in the lower rack, using a dish that has sides tall enough to catch any juices that may trickle out. A good idea may be to empty out the lower shelves of any other foods, and just leave the turkey in them, making sure no juices can escape. Of course, if you are planning on eating the turkey within the next couple days, then storing your turkey in a cooler makes the most sense.
If you purchase your frozen, uncooked turkey now, it is still fine to defrost, cook, and eat it come December. Put the frozen turkey in the cooler part of the refrigerator so that it can defrost, or even better, put it in an extra cooler you do not open very often. Once thawed, you can store your turkey for an extra four days before you have to cook it.
It can take quite a while for the turkey to safely defrost, so you will want to be sure you give your turkey plenty of time to thaw before you need to cook it. If your turkey is good when you ice it (and you have properly defrosted it – more on this below), you should be able to eat it at any time after freezing, whether it is in two months or two years. Thawing it should be done the morning of Thanksgiving, or at the latest, because after a turkey has thawed, you need to immediately cook the bird, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You can also thaw pieces of frozen turkey in the microwave, but if you do choose to use this method, you will want to plan to cook them right after they have thawed so bacteria does not get a chance to grow.
Thawing also allows you to safely store the turkey in the fridge for an additional day to two days. Sealed raw turkey, including defrosted turkey, can safely last 1 -2 days in the fridge. A turkey can be safely stored in the freezer for up to two years and is still safe to cook, according to Butterballs Turkey Talk line. A frozen turkey may be a good choice to increase convenience, and can be stored safely in a freezer indefinitely, provided temperatures are kept below 0F for the duration.
Ground turkey can be stored in a freezer in its original package, but wrapping it in aluminum foil and placing in a crate bag may be a good idea, too.
For a cooked turkey, either whole or in the breast, guidelines say that cooked turkeys can be stored in the freezer for 4-6 months. If you are storing a cooked turkey (as opposed to raw), according to The Globe and Mail, it should be fine in the freezer for two or three months. Yes, you can freeze cooked turkey that has been frozen previously, so long as the turkey was initially stored uncooked in the freezer, and the cooked turkey is completely cooled down before going back into the freezer. If a turkey breast is completely cooked, you may freeze it to use later, according to the editors.
It is recommended to freeze the turkey breast for about 9 months before using again. A whole turkey, however, can last for up to 12 months after being packed. It is fine to keep a raw turkey breast in the freezer up to one year, but storing it longer than this is unsafe as long as it is kept at a consistent 0degF temperature. Cooked turkey breasts may be stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days after cooking. If chilled within 2 hours of cooking, and is not stored between 40degF to 140degF for longer than 2 hours, then it is considered to be fresh. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the correct, safest way to store a whole raw turkey breast in your freezer is to keep it on the original wrapper. Frozen turkey properly stored has the same level of quality as fresh turkey, which should be thawed slowly in a cooler, if at all.
Raw turkey can be frozen safely for an unlimited period, but it needs to be consumed within 3-4 months to achieve the best flavor and freshness. When ready to thaw, store frozen turkey in its plastic wrap and put on a trivet or rimmed baking sheet so that any juices do not get all over the refrigerator. If you are doing this; be sure to skip the thawing process, instead warming up the roasting turkey from frozen and eating immediately. You should aim for about 30 minutes per pound of meat, then a cool soak in water to defrost it — you can make it the day that you are going to roast the turkey, provided you begin the process soon enough.
How long can a turkey be frozen before it goes bad?
Your turkey can survive up to two years if it is kept in airtight packaging. If your turkey is in good condition when you freeze it (and you thaw it properly – more on that below), you should be able to eat it two months or two years after freezing it.