We’ve all been guilty of hoarding food well, not hoarding exactly but overbuying it. But I get it; it is really hard to resist and not buy some items on sale, especially before and after the holiday season. All those goodies almost half a price will make you buy more than you need.
The worst part is when you come home and realize you won’t be able to consume it before the expiration date. What then? Well, luckily, most foods are freezer-friendly, especially the ones that tend to go bad quickly, such as veggies and meats.
Freezing them will prevent wasting, but still, frozen food can’t last forever, and it has its expiration date. That means it is really important to know how long each different food can sit in your freezer without turning into a potential hazard for your health. So I am sure that frozen meat you have in your freezer for months now does not sound like the best dinner choice after all, am I right?
Anyhow the point is that last week I decided to thoroughly clean out the freezer and get rid of everything that was suspicious. Guess what I found? A turkey, sitting there from after last Thanksgiving Day. I was about to throw it out when I realized I do not know the answer to the following question – how long can you keep a frozen turkey?
Freezing is a safe process since it preserves food for an extended period by preventing the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness. As I said, every ingredient has its own expiration date even after frozen, and we are here to talk about the turkey.
First, before you buy the turkey, please make sure the package is tightly sealed, if you do not do that and you notice a loss fit on the packaging when you come home I would recommend getting rid of it since you can’t be sure how long the meat was improperly stored.
The next step is to decide how you will freeze your turkey – whole or in parts. The whole turkey always goes into the freezer in the original packaging. If it is properly stored on the temperature at or below 0°F, you can keep it in there for at least 12 months.
If you decide to freeze it in parts, follow the next procedure. Cut the turkey on the cutting board that you use for poultry and raw meats to avoid cross-contamination. Wrap each part with the plastic foil and put them in the freezer bags with labeled dates on them. Turkey parts can be kept in the freezer for about nine months on the temperature at or below 0°F.
If the temperatures are lower than recommended, you can prolong the freezer life for several months, but you must be aware that this will impact the flavor and texture of your meat.
There are three different ways to thaw the frozen turkey or any other piece of frozen meat. You will choose the method according to how much time you have. First is in the freezer, second to thaw it in the microwave, and last is to thaw it in the container filled with cold water.
In The Fridge
The safest and at the same time, the longest way to thaw the turkey is in the refrigerator. Remember, it will take approximately one day per four pounds of turkey to completely defrost. It is way better to let your turkey defrost in a controlled environment like a fridge where the temperature does not go above 140°F. This will prevent the multiplying of the bacteria and keep your food safe.
Do not remove the original packaging, and it is a must to put your turkey on some deep baking tray that will be able to collect all the juices that may come out.
Place it in the coldest part of your fridge or if you have the spare fridge that is not open often. When the turkey is thawed completely, you can keep it in the fridge for an additional two days until you are ready to cook it. Before placing it in the oven, make sure you pat it dry good with the towel.
If you do not have this much time, the next option is to place it in the container of cold water, but make sure you completely submerge it.
Leave it in the original packaging and place it in the freezer bag, then you submerge it in the cold water. Since the turkey must stay cold, you will have to replace the water with a fresh and cold one every half an hour. This method will take 30 minutes per pound of turkey. After the turkey is completely thawed, it is best to prepare it within a few hours and avoid putting it in the fridge overnight if you can.
Also, you can combine the fridge and cold water methods to speed up the thawing process. Leave your turkey in the fridge until it is mostly defrosted than submerge it in the water.
Also, if you need a quick defrost, you can use the microwave, but this is the list safe method if you ask me. All you gotta do is remove the packaging and place the turkey or turkey parts on the microwave-safe dish. Use the defrost option based on the weight of your turkey; it will take approximately six minutes per pound of the turkey. Once it is thawed, cook it immediately.
We all know that you should not stuff your raw turkey before it reaches the internal temperature of 165°F since the potential pathogens can be harbored inside as well on the outside of the uncooked turkey. You should always follow this rule, especially if you are fixing the turkey that was in the freezer for an extended period of time.
I cannot overemphasize the food safety when it comes to thawing meat since this process may cause bacterial growth, and that will lead to foodborne illness. That is why it is very important to keep the meat at a safe temperature throughout the complete thawing process and never thaw frozen meat, especially something large as a turkey at room temperature on your kitchen counter or as some people do – in hot water.
How Do I Know If Turkey Went Funky?
If you have forgotten your turkey and left it to sit in the fridge for more than a week after you bought it or after you thaw it completely, you should be careful and check out if your meat is still good to use.
Usually, people can tell if the turkey is spoiled simply by the texture since the skin goes slimy. But the best possible way to tell if the turkey went bad is by smell, the smell of the rotten eggs and sulfur, not pleasant at all let me tell you that.
If the smell and texture are not funky, but your turkey was not stored properly, that does not mean it is safe to eat. You can’t detect foodborne illness that easy nor smell them or taste them
Before you decide to go on and cook it remember meat that was not properly stored can be contaminated with E. Coli, Salmonella, or Staphylococcus, so think about it twice for your own sake. To make sure you know all about food safety, I must share a few more tips with you.
The leftover turkey should be placed in the fridge within two hours after it has been cooked, and you can store it in the fridge for up to five days. If you want to freeze it, let it completely cool off, cut it in the small pieces and store it in separate containers in smaller amounts.
I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that a frozen turkey can last up to a year in the freezer. I love stockpiling food since I hate last-minute shopping tours around holidays or when we have some social gathering at our home.
Turkey dinner is something I always reach for since you can feed up to 15 people with one large bird, and it is straightforward to cook it. There is no messy kitchen, no fuss, and let’s be honest who doesn’t love a good roast and why it would be reserved only for a holiday season.
So bring it on and stockpile on turkey.