Got a serious amount of leftover turkey, but no time to eat it before it goes bad? Freeze it! Let us show you the best way to freeze turkey. We also answer the question can you still freeze it after 2 days or 3 days?
The turkey is done, the Thanksgiving dinner is over.
You have yourself plenty of leftovers, but you are really not in the mood for more turkey right now.
That is when it is time to employ your own personal time machine - the freezer.
By properly freezing the turkey you can return to that 4th Thursday in November anytime you want.
🥶 Can You Freeze It?
Yes you certainly can freeze your leftover turkey. But there are going to be some rules you need to follow to do it successfully.
First off, did you get that turkey into the fridge shortly after eating it? If you left it out for more than a couple hours after it cooled, then you are giving the chance for harmful bacteria to grow. I wouldn't freeze it to make up for that mistake.
The best practice is to wait until the turkey has cooled enough as you don't want to heat up the food in your fridge. Then place your leftovers into an airtight container than into the fridge. Don't go directly to the freezer, you want to chill, then freeze for better results.
🗓️ After 2 or 3 Days?
What if you haven't gotten to freeze your turkey yet after a few days have past. Often we want to enjoy the leftovers for sandwiches for a bit. But if you still haven't finished it, you might want to save it. Leftover turkey should be eaten within 4 days of cooking, so you can freeze it up until that point.
I have never frozen turkey Thanksgiving night or even the next day. When I tire of it, I then will freeze it but always within 2 or 3 days.
🙋 What Do You Need to Freeze It?
The goal for freezing the meat is to prevent freezer burn. There are three things that I use whenever I freeze meat -
- Resealable Plastic bag (quart or gallon sized)
- Heavy duty aluminum foil
- A permanent marker
💡 Tip - You can buy freezer bags, however I don't think they are worth the money. The plastic for a freezer bag is suppose to be thicker, but I think the regular bags do the job well enough.
You could use foil alone, but I like the extra layer of protection that bag provides. It helps keep air out.
🧊 How to Freeze It
I start out by laying a piece of foil down on the counter or cutting board. I always use heavy duty foil. It doesn't rip like the regular stuff does, I feel it's worth the less extra money.
I prefer to portion my meat into single servings, that way I can pull out what I need without having to defrost an entire batch. Placing those single servings into a gallon sized bag will help you organize your freezer better.
Make sure you use enough foil so that the meat is tightly wrapped without any of it showing.
💡 Tip - Do your future self a favor and remove any bones before freezing. You can also freeze the bones separately if you want to make turkey stock in the future.
In order to prevent the meat from freeze burn then place the meat into a plastic bag. I love the ones with the slider zipper top.
You can either use quart size bags which will probably only fit a single serving, maybe two. Or the large gallon size that can fit more. Then again it's easy to be organized and find what you need in your freezer.
If you are out of plastic bags but have plastic wrap, you could use that as well. The bags have the benefit that you can seal them.
Make sure you have little air in the bag as possible. This will not only save space, but air is not your friend for long keeping food. Make sure to press all the air of the bag before sealing. Some people like Alton Brown, stick a straw in the bag and suck all the air out, you can if you want to go to that extreme - I usually don't 🙂
You have taken all the proper steps to ensure a long life for your soon to be frozen food, but there is still one more step. It's a key one. Label the food.
I love a black Sharpie for this. You don't want what you wrote to come off easily. I always write exactly what it is and put today's date on the bag. This is a vital step as if you come back to it later on and don't know what it is your likely to skip using it or just throw it out. Make sure to label clearly.
With these few simple tips a leftover turkey salad, sandwich, soup, etc can easily be at your finger tips, weeks after Thanksgiving has ended. Don't let those leftovers go bad in the fridge, freeze them!
📅 How Long Will It Last in the Freezer?
In the freezer I would say the turkey would be perfect for 3 months, then quality would start going down. I would say 6 months tops, but I would really aim for finishing it up in 3.
❔ Can You Freeze a Whole Cooked Turkey?
What if you wanted to freeze a whole cooked turkey to use later on. You certainly could do that. It would be a challenge to package a whole turkey up. Your best bet would be to slice the turkey up and then freeze it by part - breast, wing, thigh, and drumstick.
🦃 Turkey Leftover Ideas
Here are some ways to use your leftover turkey
- Leftover Turkey Fajitas
- Cranberry BBQ Turkey Sliders
- Mini Turkey Shepherd's Pies
- Turkey Ramen Soup
- Turkey Orzo Soup
What do you like to do with leftover turkey? Leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you.