This article was last updated in December 2023. In our most recent update, we added a selection of products that can help you store turkey in your refrigerator, sectioned out the refrigeration, storage, and reheating guidance, and answered another frequently asked question.
After tucking into a holiday meal, you may be wondering: “How long does 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.
Stay safe with our guidance on food storage and making the most of your holiday leftovers to use in sandwiches, wraps, and more.
Whether you cooked your bird in the oven or one of our best air fryers, storing it properly is essential. The CDC has lots of information on taking care of holiday leftovers and we’ve put together a quick how-to guide also.
How long does turkey last in the fridge: Quick menu
How long does turkey last in the fridge
Refrigerating 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 refrigerator 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 (you can stock up on Reynold Wrap on Amazon if you’ve run out)
- Once it has cooled, wrap it completely or cut it up and store it in a food storage container, like these highly-rated glass Rubbermaid storage containers available on Amazon, 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 with a good antibacterial soap (Dial Complete hand soap on Amazon has over 35,000 4.7-star reviews) before handling on a clean board that has not been in contact with raw meat. Ideally, you should have more than one cutting board, but this color-coded chopping board set from Joseph Joseph at Amazon will help prevent cross-contamination. 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.
If you don’t like the idea of rewrapping the bird each time, consider investing in a vacuum sealing system. Our head of ecommerce, Annie Collyer swears by the Zwilling Fresh and Save Set which uses BPA-free reusable bags with secure zip closure, and stackable borosilicate glass containers (which are nestable when not in use). This works by removing all of the air from food storage to keep food fresh for up to five times longer. And, when you’re done — the glass vessels can cleaned in the dishwasher!
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 (in your best slow cooker), 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.
According to the Department of Agriculture, a turkey must reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be safe. So it might be worth buying a meat thermometer (like this one from Alpha Grillers on Amazon) if you want reassurance.
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!
Is turkey still good after 7 days in fridge?
In short, no. The USDA recommends using cooked turkey within 3–4 days, kept refrigerated (40°F or less). If you do want to keep it for longer, consider freezing it, ideally as soon as it has cooled down, on the day of cooking.
Can I 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 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 Ziploc freezer 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 — do this in your refrigerator, and don’t be tempted to rush the process using your microwave.
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.