At Thanksgiving or Christmas, chances are high that you are going to cook a turkey. However, you may have some leftovers so what do you do with them? Cooked turkey will only keep for three to four days in the fridge and you might not want to eat it every day just to use it up.
You can have too much of a good thing after all. The alternative is to freeze it and turkey does freeze remarkably well. In this article we will tell you how to freeze cooked turkey and how to defrost it.
Freezing Cooked Turkey
Cooked turkey can be frozen to use in the future in such dishes as soups, currys, and casseroles or you can just eat it in slices with a salad. These are the steps you need to follow to freeze your cooked turkey.
It is important to cool the turkey down as quickly as possible. It should only sit at room temperature for up to two hours. After this time, bacteria can start to form and you can risk becoming sick. It is a good idea to put the turkey in another tin as the one it has been cooked in will be hot.
2. Slice the turkey
It’s a good idea to slice your turkey. It not only makes defrosting easier, but it also allows you to divide your turkey into meal size portions. This will mean that you won’t waste any of the turkey if you defrost more than you need.
3. Wrap the cooked turkey in foil
It is best to wrap just two to three slices in each piece of foil. Wrap them tightly so that no air gets in. Air can cause freezer burn and while the food may still be edible, it won’t taste as good and it will probably discolor.
4. Put the turkey slices in bags
Put the foil pouches in freezer bags. Put in as many as you think you will need for a meal. Again squeeze out as much air as possible.
5. Put a label on each bag
It is a good idea to put a label on each bag with the date frozen and what is in the bag. As the turkey will be wrapped in foil, you won’t be able to tell what is in the bag and this is important if you freeze different types of meat.
Freezing Turkey Mince
You can freeze turkey mince perfectly safely. To do this, just portion it out into meal-size servings and put them into freezer bags making sure to squeeze out as much air as possible. You can freeze it plain, in a gravy, or as a dish. However, if you freeze it in a dish, make sure that you look up how long the other ingredients can be frozen for.
Tips for Freezing Cooked Turkey
These are our tips for freezing cooked turkey.
1. Freeze the turkey into meal size portions
This is a good idea to avoid waste.
2. Freeze the turkey within two hours
Don’t leave the cooked turkey on the counter top for longer than two hours. After this time bacteria can start to develop and you could become sick if you eat it. You can put the turkey in the fridge for up to three days before freezing. You might want to do this if you think that you might want to eat some within this time. However, this could turn the turkey dry.
3. Freeze the cooked turkey as a dish
Why don’t you freeze the cooked turkey as a dish? You could make it into a curry, a stew, or a soup. This helps the turkey to retain moisture so it will be tastier when you come to defrost it.
4. Freeze the turkey in gravy
If you freeze the turkey in gravy, this will also help it to retain moisture.
5. Squeeze out the air from the freezer bags
If you don’t squeeze out all the air, you may get freezer burn and your turkey may get discolored and lose its flavor.
For How Long Can You Freeze Cooked Turkey?
You can freeze cooked turkey for up to four months as long as you put it straight in the freezer. If you keep it in the fridge for a few days it may not last as long in the freezer and it will probably be dry. If you are freezing the cooked turkey in a dish, you can also keep it in the freezer for up to four months.
Defrosting Cooked Turkey
Defrosting any type of meat should be done slowly. The temperature should never go above 40F which is the point where bacteria starts to develop. Because of this don’t defrost your cooked turkey at room temperature. The best thing to do is to put it in the fridge the night before you plan to use it. Just put it in a bowl in the freezer bags. The same goes for defrosting turkey mince.
Refreezing Cooked Turkey
It is possible to refreeze cooked turkey as long as you have defrosted it properly. However, it can become dry if you refreeze it so we suggest that you only do it once. The cooked turkey will remain safe if you refreeze it more times, but it will lose taste and texture. If you refreeze the cooked turkey in meal-size portions however, there will be no reason for you to refreeze your turkey.
Is it a Good Idea to Freeze Cooked Turkey?
Yes, it is a good idea to freeze cooked turkey. It is a great way to avoid waste. Cooked turkey does freeze well and can be frozen equally well as it is or as part of a dish. Just remember to cool down your turkey within two hours so that you can freeze the turkey quickly and avoid bacteria from forming.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hopefully, you now feel confident to freeze your cooked turkey, but in case you want to know more, we have answered a couple of questions here.
Can you freeze any part of the turkey?
Yes, you can freeze any part of the turkey, be it breast, wing, or leg. You do, however, need to separate the meat from the bone. You shouldn’t put the bones in the freezer. Separating the meat from the bone also helps to cool the meat down more quickly. Whichever part of the bird you freeze, slice it if you can and freeze in meal-size portions.
Can you freeze a large piece of turkey?
You can, but we don’t advise it unless you think that you plan to use a larger amount for a meal. It also means that the turkey will take a longer time to cool down before you put it in the freezer and that it will take longer to defrost.
What can I make with defrosted turkey mince?
Turkey mince is very versatile. You can make turkey burgers, use it in a curry, or in chili. The great thing about turkey mince is that it is lower in calories and fat than beef mince (see also Freezing Cooked Beef).