Frozen Turkey Safety

a cooked whole turkey on a plate

To ensure proper handling, storage, and preparation of frozen turkey, follow these tips.

Buying:

  • Always look for the "safe food handling" label on packages.

  • The label will give you tips for proper food handling and cooking.

  • Make sure that the packaging is tightly sealed.

  • Pick up the turkey and other meat items last and ask to have them bagged separately from other groceries.

 

Storing:

  • Make sure that the refrigerator temperature is set below 40 degrees F.

  • To freeze an uncooked, whole turkey, leave the turkey in its original wrapping.

  • To freeze uncooked turkey parts, wrap them in freezer wrap or tightly sealed freezer bags and mark them with the date.

  • To freeze cooked turkey, wrap them in freezer wrap or tightly sealed freezer bags and mark them with the date.

  • A frozen, whole turkey can be kept for approximately 12 months in a freezer set at or below 0 degrees F.

  • Cooked turkey can be kept frozen for approximately 2 - 6 months in a freezer set at or below 0 degrees F.

  • Cooked turkey should be eaten or frozen within 3 - 4 days.

  • Frozen turkey parts can be kept for approximately 9 months in a freezer set at or below 0 degrees F.

 

Preparing:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before, during, and after handling raw poultry.

  • Use 2 separate cutting boards to avoid cross-contamination, one for raw meats, poultry, and seafood, and the other for ready-to-eat foods.

  • Refer to the "safe food handling" label on the package for proper preparation.

  • Thaw the turkey in a refrigerator (never on the counter) or in a microwave oven using the defrost setting or under cold water.

  • For safe thawing in the refrigerator, allow approximately one day for every 4 - 5 pounds of turkey to thaw in the refrigerator.

  • When thawing the turkey in a microwave oven, follow the owner's manual. Cook it immediately after thawing in the microwave oven because some areas may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving.

  • Turkey may also be thawed in cold water in its original airtight packaging or in a leak-proof bag. Submerge the bird or cut-up parts in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Estimate the minimum thawing time to be 30 minutes per pound for the whole turkey.

  • Do not refreeze the thawed turkey.

  • Use a food thermometer to cook to a proper internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F.

  • When cooking a stuffed turkey, the center of the stuffing must reach at least 165 degrees F. For safety and uniform doneness of the turkey, cook the stuffing separately.

  • Refrigerate the leftover turkey promptly within 2 hours.