How Long will Leftover Turkey Keep in the Fridge?
We roasted a fresh turkey un-stuffed on Thanksgiving and the left-over pieces have been stored in the refrigerator in it's own container. How long is too long to safely consume the left-over turkey? Thank you.--Betty
In our house, most of the leftover turkey is consumed for late night snacks or lunch the next day as Turkey Buns. In fact, I have been known to say the only reason to roast a turkey for supper is to have leftovers for turkey buns. Still, there is always some leftover for turkey with gravy, tetrazzini or some other dish.
The general rule for meat is that it will safely keep for about three days, provided that:
- the meat was thoroughly cooked;
- it was not left in the "danger zone" temperatures of between 140°F (60°C) and 40°F (4°C) for more than two hours; and
- the refrigerator is kept below 40°F (4°C).
If any of the above is not done, then the storage time will be reduced, and the risk of food-borne illness greatly increased.
For turkey and chicken, the meat must be cooked to at least 165°F (74°C) throughout, although you likely want to cook the dark meat to closer to 180°F (82°C) for the best results. If the turkey had been stuffed, then the stuffing should be completely removed from the bird and refrigerated separately. Because of the extra moisture in stuffing, it will only keep for one or at most two days. See the posting "Dis-dressed Turkey" for more about stuffing safety.
As much as possible, the meat should be stored in large pieces. Most food safety experts recommend taking all of the meat off of the bones before refrigerating. The carcass can be discarded or used to make stock or soup.
Reheat the leftover turkey to at least 165°F (74°C), preferably in gravy, or some other sauce, before serving.
To learn more about how long food can be left out before refrigeration and the danger zone, read How Long Can Cooked Food Be Left Out.
What are the "Turkey Buns" mentioned in the Kitchen Savvy article above?
It's family shorthand for sandwiches made with dinner rolls and leftover turkey. Optional ingredients are stuffing, cranberry sauce, mayo, etc.Personally, I like them more than the big turkey dinner.Dave
Posted by: Annie | Dec 04, 2010 at 07:55 PM
Hi I cooked my turkey on Wednesday, I'd like to make turkey salad with remaining turkey. I have a general rule of 3 days for any leftovers in my house. Discard anything after 3 days.. usually not much leftovers as there are 2 boys & a grown man in my house :-)
Posted by: Annie | Nov 28, 2010 at 12:14 PM
how long before refrigerated turkey carcass is no good for making stock?
Posted by: Linda | Dec 30, 2009 at 11:37 AM
I read your answer regarding how long turkey is safe to keep. Does this same time frame apply to store roasted turkey breast sold sliced in their deli section? I have some leftover turkey that I bought 11 days ago from Price Chopper and it smells fine and looks okay to me. Is turkey sold this way preserved in any way to make it keep longer? This is not the usual processed stuff that you can get. Thank you for a quick response.
Don't eat it! Dave
Posted by: Bonnie | Oct 06, 2009 at 06:55 PM
Hi,I cooked a prime rib roast 4 days ago and stored the leftovers with the gravy in the fridge. Is it okay to re-heat? is it safe?
Posted by: giselle | Dec 29, 2007 at 12:16 PM