How Long Is Cooked Turkey Still Safe To Eat?

Whether it's Thanksgiving turkey or you've meal-prepped for the week, turkey is a favorite food choice in many households. Preparing, cooking, and storing turkey properly is something you'll want to keep in mind, as food-borne illnesses are possible when meat is handled or stored incorrectly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), frozen, raw turkey should be stored in a freezer that's at zero degrees Fahrenheit or below until it's time to thaw it. If you bought fresh, raw turkey, it's safe to leave it in the refrigerator for one to two days.

A turkey can also be thawed in the refrigerator with cold water that's changed every 30 minutes. It's safe to thaw turkey in the microwave, but you must follow the microwave manufacturer's directions. Always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after handling turkey to prevent the spread of germs. Turkey should reach an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit when cooked (via CDC).

Before you store your turkey after cooking, there are a few steps to consider to save you time. According to Food Network, clean out your refrigerator to avoid playing Jenga with your containers. Also, set out your containers or bags to make sure you have enough storage for the turkey you're cooking.

Properly storing cooked turkey

Once you've cooked your turkey, it'll only be a few days before you'll need to take it out of the refrigerator. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that reports turkey is still safe to eat after three to four days in a refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less. While refrigerating food doesn't stop bacterial growth, it can curb it.

Refrigerating food is a better alternative to leaving leftovers at room temperature. Once food reaches temperatures of 40 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it enters the "danger zone," giving pathogenic bacteria the chance to cultivate quickly. Unfortunately, you can't tell when bacteria growth is present because it usually doesn't affect the smell, appearance, or taste of food (via USDA).

The USDA recommends following these steps when it comes to food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill. This reduces your risk of food-borne illnesses, and prevents spoilage, too (via USDA). If day four arrives and you still haven't eaten the cooked turkey in your fridge, it's safe to store it in the freezer for longer, according to the USDA. The quality of the turkey will stay at its best for two-to-six months in the freezer. Label bags or storage containers so there's no second-guessing on dates.