Turkey is not just for Thanksgiving! Even when there is no occasion, having turkey on the table is a treat to the taste buds.
Most people who buy turkey will find themselves in a situation where they will have it frozen. For instance, such is the case when you are not yet ready to cook it. Keeping it in the freezer will extend its shelf-life so it remains good until the time you will use it.
If you are curious about how long can you keep a frozen turkey, read on and learn from the insights we’ll share in this short guide.
How Long Can You Keep a Frozen Turkey?
The answer to this question depends on many things. The biggest deciding factor, however, would be whether you are storing uncooked or cooked turkey. It will last longer if it is uncooked, especially if it is in a vacuum-sealed packaging.
You can freeze uncooked turkey up to two years! This is given that it is in its original sealed packaging. There should be no holes or anywhere else where air can enter to keep the meat fresh even after several months.
Even if you can keep uncooked turkey in its original sealed packaging for two years, we do not recommend doing so. While it remains safe for a long time, provided that it is handled properly, it is better to cook it within a year to enjoy the best possible quality.
Meanwhile, if the turkey is cooked before it is frozen, it will last only a few months. The sooner you consume, the better. The longer you wait, the more the taste will be altered, which will affect the natural flavors and even texture of turkey.
How To Tell When Frozen Turkey Has Gone Bad
Most people will forget how long turkey has been in the freezer, except if you label it with the storage diet to keep track. To help you determine if it has already gone bad, below are some of the best things to do.
1. See the Best Before Date
For store-bought turkey, they will often come with a best before date. This is a good reference to tell if the turkey is still in a good condition. We suggest that you do not wait for the date printed on the label before cooking or consuming turkey.
Nonetheless, take note that best before date is only for reference on until when turkey is best to use. It is still safe to consume it after this date, but there is a potential to lose its quality, so consider it to have gone bad.
2. Watch Out for its Appearance
The appearance of turkey is another tell-tale sign if it is still good or if it has gone bad. In most cases, you won’t see the signs of spoilage while it is frozen, so you will need to thaw before you can see if it is no longer good.
Raw turkey will change its color once it has gone bad. In a good state, turkey meat must be cream, light pink, off-white, or pale white. When it has spoiled, the color of the meat will be darker, which is a sign of contamination.
While mold growth is rare, it can be another sign that turkey has gone bad, especially when it is cooked before it is frozen. This usually happens when turkey retains a lot of moisture after cooking and before freezing.
3. Feel Its Texture
Aside from looking at the appearance of frozen turkey, one more thing that you can do is to feel it. The texture will have significant changes if it has gone bad. For raw turkey, it can turn slimy once it has been thawed. Such is an indication that it is already bad.
The slimy texture of turkey is often a result of bacterial infestation. It can be because it has been in the freezer for a long time. In addition, the culprit can be improper handling and storage, such as the failure to maintain a consistent temperature of the freezer.
4. Pay Attention to Its Smell
Frozen turkey will not smell, even if it is fresh. If you want to tell if it is good or not, wait until it thaws before smelling the meat. When it is fresh, it has mild odor similar to chicken if the turkey is raw. If it is cooked, the smell will depend on the ingredients present.
Once turkey has gone bad, there will be a foul odor, which is most noticeable when meat reaches room temperature.
How to Thaw Frozen Turkey
It is not enough that you know how long a frozen turkey is good for. To make this article more valuable, we will also share some tips on how you can thaw it safely.
According to USDA, the best way to thaw frozen turkey is in the fridge. It is the safest method because of the consistency of the temperature. It can take up to a day, so make sure to have plenty of time. From the freezer, transfer turkey in the fridge and wait until it thaws.
Alternatively, you can also try cold water thawing. For this method, make sure that it is in its original vacuum-sealed packaging. Submerge in a container or sink with cold water, making sure to change the water every half an hour. For every pound of turkey, wait 30 minutes.
Another thawing method is in the microwave. This is perfect for people who do not have the luxury of time. It is ideal if your microwave has a defrost function. See to it that the microwave is big enough to accommodate the size of the turkey that you will thaw.
Regardless of the thawing method that you chose, use the turkey within two to three days. Do not leave it in room temperature. Instead, keep it in the fridge. Freezing and thawing repeatedly should not be done as it is unsafe and will make the quality suffer.
Best Practices When Freezing Turkey
To keep frozen turkey fresher longer, here are some of the best tips when freezing:
1. Label the Container Before Freezing
If it does not come with a best before date, use a marker to label the container indicating the date when it was first frozen. This will serve as a useful reference, so you will know how long the turkey has been in the freezer.
2. Do No Unwrap Uncooked Turkey
For store-bought turkey, we recommend not removing it from the original packaging. In most cases, it will be in a vacuum-sealed plastic. This will prevent infiltration of external elements and contamination when the turkey is frozen.
3. Let It Cool
This is applicable if you are freezing cooked turkey, such as leftover from a dinner party. Give it enough time for turkey to cool down before freezing. You can also cut it into bite-sized pieces if you want to save space.