Keeping a fresh turkey in the refrigerator for up to a week is generally considered safe, as long as proper storage guidelines are followed. However, there are some factors to consider when storing a turkey that long to ensure it remains fresh and safe to eat.
Here are quick answers to common questions about storing a fresh turkey in the fridge for a week:
- Yes, you can keep a fresh turkey in the fridge for up to 1 week before cooking it.
- Store the turkey in the coldest part of the fridge (40°F or below).
- Keep the turkey in its original wrapping, or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
- Place the turkey on a tray or pan to catch any juices that may drip.
- Use the turkey within 1-2 days of the “sell by” or “use by” date on the packaging.
- Monitor the turkey for signs of spoilage like foul odor, sliminess, or discoloration.
- Cook the turkey immediately if it shows any signs of spoilage.
Is it Safe to Store a Turkey for a Week?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that fresh turkeys can be stored safely in the fridge for 1-2 days. However, they provide leeway for storing a turkey for longer if kept at a consistent temperature at or below 40°F.
Several studies have found that fresh poultry can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week before cooking and still remain safe to eat. The key is ensuring proper temperature control and preventing cross-contamination in the fridge.
Factors that Determine Turkey Safety
There are a few key factors that determine whether a fresh turkey remains safe to cook and eat after a week in the refrigerator:
- Proper temperature – The temperature of the fridge should stay at 40°F or slightly below the entire time. Higher temps allow bacteria to multiply faster.
- Prevention of cross-contamination – Juices should not be allowed to drip onto other foods. Turkey should be tightly wrapped.
- Freshness of the turkey – The closer to the “sell by” date, the shorter the safe storage time. Use turkeys within 1-2 days of the date on the package.
- Proper handling – Clean hands and surfaces should be used when handling raw turkey to prevent spread of bacteria.
Steps for Storing Turkey in the Fridge for a Week
Follow these guidelines to keep your turkey safe, fresh, and ready to cook within a week of purchasing it:
- When purchasing your fresh turkey, make sure it will be used within 1-2 days of the “sell by” or “use by” date on the packaging. This provides a reasonable buffer for storing in the fridge for up to a week.
- Transport the turkey home immediately in a cooler if the trip will take longer than 2 hours. Keep temperatures as close to 40°F as possible.
- Once home, remove the turkey from any packaging and check that there are no tears or holes in the meat. Rinse if desired.
- Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
- Place turkey in a container or on a tray to prevent raw juices from dripping in the fridge.
- Store turkey on a bottom shelf or in the coldest part of the fridge, generally the back. The temperature should never exceed 40°F.
- Avoid opening the fridge door frequently so the temperature remains stable during storage.
- Cook the turkey within 1 week, reheating the meat thoroughly to 165°F throughout before eating.
How to Tell if Turkey Has Spoiled
Although turkey can be kept refrigerated for up to week, it’s important to watch for signs of spoilage. Here’s what to look for:
- Sliminess or tackiness – Turkey skin or flesh that feels overly sticky, tacky, or slimy when touched is a sign bacteria are growing.
- Discoloration – Patches of gray, green, or yellow discoloration signal the turkey is spoiled.
- Off odor – Foul odors like sulfur or ammonia indicate dangerous bacteria growth. Fresh turkey has a mild odor.
- Change in texture – Soft, mushy, or sticky flesh that leaves a dent when pressed can mean spoilage.
If you observe any of these signs, do not risk eating the turkey. Discard it immediately.
Is a Frozen Turkey Safer?
Frozen turkeys can typically remain safely frozen for longer periods than fresh turkeys can be refrigerated. According to the USDA, a whole frozen turkey can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 year before cooking.
Properly handled frozen turkeys may be safer than fresh since the freezing process stops bacteria growth. Just make sure to maintain a consistent freezer temperature at 0°F or below.
Once thawed, a previously frozen turkey can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days before cooking, just like a fresh turkey.
How Long Does an Uncooked Turkey Last in the Fridge?
|Fresh, whole||1-2 days raw; 3-4 days cooked|
|Fresh, pieces||1-2 days raw; 3-4 days cooked|
|Frozen, whole||1-2 days after thawing|
|Frozen, pieces||1-2 days after thawing|
|Cooked, pieces or whole||3-4 days|
These timelines are based on food safety guidelines from the USDA and assume proper constant refrigeration at 40°F or below. Use cooked turkey within 3-4 days and raw turkey within just 1-2 days for optimum freshness and food safety.
Can You Refreeze Thawed Turkey?
Previously frozen raw turkey that has been properly thawed in the fridge can be safely refrozen before or after cooking, although this will affect the quality. Thawed turkey lasts just 1-2 days in the fridge compared to up to a year when frozen.
Make sure thawed turkey was kept at 40°F or below before refreezing. And refreeze it as soon as possible, within 1-2 days. The longer raw turkey sits thawed in the fridge, the greater the chance bacteria will start to multiply.
Refreezing previously frozen turkey will likely cause the texture to become more dry and tough. It is best to cook thawed turkey immediately rather than refreezing if possible.
Can You Brine and Refrigerate a Turkey for 7 Days?
Yes, you can brine and refrigerate a turkey for up to 7 days before cooking it. Brining, which is soaking the turkey in a saltwater solution, adds moisture and flavor and allows the turkey to be kept refrigerated longer.
Be sure to only brine the turkey for 12-24 hours maximum. After brining, rinse the turkey, pat it dry and wrap it tightly before refrigerating. Store the brined turkey for no more than 7 days at 40°F or below before cooking thoroughly to 165°F.
Signs of Spoiled Cooked Turkey
Cooked turkey that has spoiled will show similar signs as raw turkey, but the odors, slime, and discoloration will be more pronounced due to potential pathogenic bacterial growth:
- Strong, unpleasant odors
- Slimy texture or tacky consistency
- Discoloration – gray, green, yellow
- Mold growth – fuzzy or dry patches
Discard cooked turkey immediately if you notice any of these signs of spoilage after storage in the refrigerator.
How to Store Leftover Turkey Safely
To safely store leftover cooked turkey:
- Cut turkey off the bone and refrigerate in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking.
- Use leftovers within 3-4 days. Freeze for longer storage.
- Reheat thoroughly to 165°F until hot and steaming before eating.
- Avoid letting cooked turkey sit out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
- Store turkey pieces separately or layered in a container rather than piled together.
- Keep cooked turkey on a plate near the back of the top shelf of the fridge.
Properly stored in the refrigerator, leftover turkey can last for 3-4 days. Watch for signs of spoilage and discard any turkey that smells bad or has an unusual color or texture.
A fresh turkey can be kept refrigerated for up to 1 week before cooking, although the USDA recommends using fresh turkey within just 1-2 days for the highest level of quality and food safety. Properly handling and storing the turkey is key, including keeping the fridge temperature at or below 40°F at all times.
Check for signs of spoilage and cook or freeze the turkey right away if you notice any odor, slime, or discoloration. Cook fresh turkey thoroughly to 165°F internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. Refrigerate leftovers for only 3-4 days.
With proper refrigeration and food handling, it is possible to keep an uncooked fresh turkey in the fridge for close to a week before cooking and serving it safely.