Thanksgiving is a time for gathering with family and friends to enjoy a meal together. While you might not think of it as much, Thanksgiving dinner involves both cooking and food storage, which means there are a number of safety considerations that can go into preparing this holiday meal.
If you have extra turkey, can you freeze it? This happens to be a question that I get asked every single year.
So, can you freeze turkey? Yes, you can freeze turkey. It’s important to keep the freezer bag sealed tight to prevent air from reaching the turkey. Properly stored, turkey can last for three months in the freezer without any flavor or texture change.
What Is Turkey?
The turkey is a large, dark-colored bird in the genus Meleagris. One species, Meleagris gallopavo (commonly known as the common turkey), is native to the Americas, from Mexico and the Caribbean to southern Brazil.
The other living species is Meleagris ocellata or the ocellated turkey which lives in a small area in northern Mexico and in the southwestern U.S.
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Freezing turkey is an excellent method of preserving the meat for months. Turkey freezes well because it is low-fat meat that has very little moisture, yet still contains plenty of protein to keep you feeling satisfied.
As long as you properly prepare your turkey for freezing, there’s nothing complicated about this process.
How To Freeze Turkey?
Freezing is a great way to preserve food and save money. It also works well for turkey, but only if you freeze it in the right way and use it correctly.
Freezing Whole Turkey
It is possible to freeze whole turkeys, but it’s not recommended. The main problem is that air will be trapped in the spaces between the turkey and its packaging. When you take the turkey out of the freezer, the ice crystals formed in these pockets can break through the skin and ruin it before you get a chance to thaw it. The slow thawing process also increases your risk of bacterial growth during storage.
If you absolutely want to freeze whole turkeys, invest in heavy-duty wrapping materials like freezer paper or plastic wrap. But avoid using regular plastic wrap as those will break during freezing.
To freeze the whole turkey, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Allow to Cool Down
Follow your recipe to cook your turkey. Once it’s cooked, allow it to cool down to room temperature. Never try to store the turkey while it’s still warm. If you do, the moisture from the condensation will damage the meat.
Also, the heat generated from the turkey will cause other items around it to thaw prematurely.
Let the turkey sit at room temperature, but not for longer than 2 hours. If it’s kept for too long, bacteria may start to grow on it.
Step 2: Wrapping
With plastic wrap, wrap your whole turkey with several layers. Ensure that all parts of the turkey are not exposed. Just a small area that is exposed can cause the entire turkey to deteriorate in quality due to freezer burn.
Then, with freezer tape, wrap the turkey again. This will help hold the turkey together.
Step 3: Freezing
After it’s wrapped, place the turkey into the freezer. Make sure to not keep it in the freezer for longer than 2 weeks.
Freezing Leftover Turkey
If you need to keep keep your turkey for longer than 2 weeks, it’s best to cut the turkey into smaller pieces.
Below are the steps to freezing leftover turkey:
Step 1: Allow Turkey to Cool Down
After the turkey is cooked, allow it to cool down to room temperature. This will avoid condensation forming in the freezer when it’s still warm.
Step 2: Portion Turkey
Once it’s cooled down, cut the turkey into smaller pieces. It should be as small as possible so it will freeze better. Bigger pieces of the meat will take longer to freeze and takes longer to thaw as well.
Step 3: Flash Freezing
Once the turkey is cut into pieces, place them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Make sure to keep each piece of the turkey spaced so they don’t touch each other. Flash freezing will prevent the turkey from sticking to each other during freezing.
Then place them into the freezer. Let it sit for about 2-3 hours or until it’s completely frozen.
Step 4: Place in Storage Bag
Once the turkey is frozen, remove them from the freezer. Immediately transfer the pieces of turkey to a freezer bag.
Then press on the bag to remove any excess air before sealing it.
Step 5: Label and Freeze
With a pen or marker, write the date of freezing on the bag. This is a great way to keep track of how long the turkey is in the freezer.
Then place the turkey into the freezer for storage. It’s a good idea to store them at the back end of the freezer. The turkey will be less likely to be affected by the fluctuation of temperature when the freezer door is opened and closed.
How Long Can You Freeze Turkey?
You should be able to freeze turkey for up to 12 months. If it’s been frozen for more than a year, throw it out and buy a new one. After a year, the quality of it will start to deteriorate.
How Do You Defrost Turkey?
You know you’re supposed to thaw your turkey before cooking it, but the process can be confusing. Luckily there are several ways to thaw a frozen turkey, including hot water and cold water.
Hot water should only be used if you plan on cooking the bird immediately after thawing. If you don’t, submerging your turkey in hot water will allow bacteria to grow inside the breast meat.
Coldwater is much more effective at safely thawing a frozen turkey because it allows the juices to stay inside of the bird instead of leaking out into your sink or refrigerator.
After leaving it in cold water for about 10 minutes, you can cook the turkey. If you are not planning to cook it, place the turkey onto a plate and store them in the refrigerator. You can keep the turkey in the fridge for up to 2 days before it goes bad.
Can You Refreeze Turkey?
The quick answer is — you can, but it’s not recommended. Frozen meat and poultry will lose quality and nutrients each time they are frozen and thawed. Refreezing will make the texture and taste of your food worse every time. Also, the bacteria present in the meat may multiply, which could make you very sick if you eat it.
If you decide to do so, be sure the turkey is stored in the refrigerator before putting it back in the freezer. It’s recommended to thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator rather than on a countertop or sink. In addition to preventing bacterial growth, proper food handling methods will help keep food safe to eat during storage and later consumption.
Turkey is famous meat loved by many all around the world. Roast turkey is a signature dish of thanksgiving. But there are times we find the need to store turkey for later use. Whether it is raw meat or cooked meat we can choose to freeze them. There are few steps you have to follow when freezing turkey. If you follow them carefully, you can protect the meat for a long time.