You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving or Christmas to serve turkey. After all, it’s an excellent meal for all sorts of special occasions. That being said, if you find a good deal on a fresh turkey but don’t want to cook it right away you may want to know whether it’s safe to store in your freezer?
You can successfully freeze a fresh turkey for later use. If you want to store fresh turkey in the freezer, make sure to keep it in its original wrapping or sealed freezer bags. A fresh raw turkey that is promptly frozen will last up to a year.
Keep reading as I address the questions you may have about freezing a fresh turkey.
What Is the Best Way To Freeze a Fresh Turkey?
When you freeze a fresh turkey, you don’t just plop it into the freezer. You take must take precautions to minimize mess, maximize freshness and ensure that the meat remains safe to eat.
The best way to freeze a fresh turkey is to store it in the freezer with its original packaging. If you don’t have the original packaging anymore, use freezer wrapping paper or freezer-grade plastic bags. Double and triple wrapping will help protect the turkey from the dry freezer air.
In other words, the better you wrap your turkey the longer it will last in the freezer. As long as you follow the steps above, you shouldn’t have too many problems.
Are Fresh Turkeys Really Fresh?
Unless you hunted the turkey yourself, you might have concerns about whether the “fresh” turkey from grocery stores is as fresh as the label says. “Fresh turkey” may be thawed frozen turkey for all you know.
Fresh turkeys aren’t really fresh (they weren’t butchered on-site). The fresh turkeys in grocery stores are kept cold but not frozen. Stores can legally market turkeys as “fresh” if their storage temperatures don’t go below 26°F (-3.3°C). Previously frozen and thawed turkeys aren’t sold as “fresh”.
Ideally, however, if you want to freeze a turkey, it should be as fresh as possible. To make sure, you’ll first want to choose a turkey from a reputable market to make sure that you’re not buying a turkey that was frozen and recently thawed.
Second, you’ll want to select one with the “use by” date as far into the future as possible. This is similar to the way that many people shop for milk (myself included). You’ll want to dig around or reach way into the back of the refrigerated grocery section to find the turkey with the most distant use-by date.
Does Freezing a Turkey Ruin It?
Freezing turkey doesn’t ruin the quality of the meat. According to the National Turkey Federation, quality-wise, there’s no significant difference between fresh and frozen turkeys. However, the freezing temperatures may make for drier meat due to cell damage and fluid loss.
Temperature isn’t the only difference between fresh and frozen food. The quality can differ too, and you’re wondering if that’s the case for turkey meat.
As much as you want to preserve your turkey’s freshness for as long as possible, freezing is often the best (and only) storage solution. So what’s the longest time a fresh turkey can stay in the freezer?
How Long Can I Freeze a Fresh Turkey?
The length of time fresh turkeys can last in the freezer might surprise you. It also depends on whether you’re storing a whole or chopped-up bird.
You can freeze a whole fresh turkey for up to a year. Meanwhile, you can freeze fresh turkey parts for up to nine months. In both cases, the turkey must be raw to start with. Freezing cooked turkey will allow you to keep the bird for about two to six months.
Now, let’s say you want to thaw a fresh turkey after freezing. Will the turkey stay fresh and (most importantly) is it safe to eat?
Can You Freeze a Fresh Turkey and Then Defrost It Safely?
You can freeze a fresh turkey and defrost it safely. According to the USDA, the safest way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you may also defrost your turkey using cold water or a microwave. But whatever you do, don’t thaw your turkey at room temperature.
Of course, you won’t always use up all your turkey in one go. If you have any leftover thawed turkey, you may be wondering whether it’s safe to put that back in the fridge.
Can I Put Defrosted Turkey Back in the Fridge?
You can keep a defrosted turkey in the fridge if it was thawed properly. If you defrosted it using the refrigerator method, you could even refreeze it. If, however, the turkey was thawed by another method or sat out at all, you will not want to refreeze it.
In this case, you can keep it in the fridge for a day or two until you cook it.
As you can see, it’s okay to freeze fresh turkey as long as you do it properly.
I hope I’ve covered the most pressing questions you have about freezing fresh turkey. Freezing a fresh turkey is fairly simple. The main points to remember are to choose the freshest turkey available from the store and to wrap it really well to protect it before placing it in the freezer.