How Long Can a Thawed Turkey Stay in the Fridge

The thawing process for a turkey can take time.

But the focus today is the timeframe you have after this has been done.

Read on to discover how long you can keep a thawed turkey in the fridge.

As well as some other helpful information.

So you can serve up the tastiest turkey.


Keeping a Thawed Turkey Refrigerated – How Long Do I Have?

A completely thawed turkey can stay refrigerated for up to a week.

However, this does depend on the pounds of turkey you have.

As well as the average temperature.

It is better to be safe than sorry.

So I recommend keeping it for a maximum of 3 days.

The Difference Between Thawing & Thawed

It is important to distinguish between thawed and thawing.

A completely thawed turkey is when the internal temp of the meat is around 7°F.

As this is the average temp of a refrigerator.

A thawing turkey will still be below 0°F.

Below I have covered the rate of defrosting, which can take over 3 days.

Depending on the weight of your turkey.

At What Rate Does a Turkey Defrost in the Refrigerator?

Use the below defrost time calculator when defrosting using this method.

A turkey defrosts at 1 pound per 30 mins at the standard fridge temp of 7°F.

Read further for an in-depth guide on defrosting methods.

Plan a Timescale Before Thawing a Raw Turkey

With the clock ticking down, it helps to set yourself a timescale of when you want to cook.

This will lower the chances of you leaving it in for longer than required.

What Are the Signs It Is Completely Thawed?

Check for Physical Signs

It is straightforward to tell if you have frozen raw meat.

A frozen bird will be solid to the touch.

And (obviously) be very cold to the touch.

The packaging and raw turkey flesh may still have ice crystals on them.

But what if your turkey isn’t showing these signs and you want to be sure?

The turkey flesh should have a little bounce to the touch.

A good tip is to try and move the wings to judge the wiggle room.

They will move freely and without any sound.

This is a good indication you no longer have frozen meat.

Estimate the Timings

Get a picture of how long the turkey will likely take to defrost.

Based on the above calculation.

To confirm it has thawed.

Then add 3 days it can further be kept in the fridge.

Use a Food Thermometer to Measure the Internal Temperature

A meat thermometer is the most accurate way to check for thawing.

Insert in the thicker parts of the entire bird.

As per the temperature ranges above.

How Long Can I Keep It Frozen?

Frozen turkeys can be frozen theoretically forever.

But any longer than 3-4 months can cause freezer burn.


Can I Defrost Meat at Room Temperature?

Never defrost meat at room temperature or with hot water.

The ‘Danger’ Temperature Range for Harmful Bacteria

Do not leave the turkey out of the fridge to thaw, even if it is just to finish it off!

The temperature range that bacteria thrive at is 40°F – 140°F.

So your safe temperature to defrost is below 39°F.

Fda-Approved Methods for Defrosting Turkey

Defrosting in a Refrigerator

– Keep the turkey in the original packaging.

– Check the weight and estimate the defrost time.

– Place at the bottom on a roasting tray or something that will catch excess water.

Cold Water Method in Sink

– Re-wrap the turkey in 2 layers of plastic wrap.

– Fill up your sink large enough with cold tap water.

– Submerge and replace the water every 30 minutes.

– Check it has thawed as per the above instructions.

Cold Water Method in Cooler

Using a cooler to defrost turkey is a convenient method with regard to space and portability.

Much like the sink, we fill up a good quality cooler with water and submerge the turkey.

– Re-wrap the turkey in 2 layers of plastic wrap.

– Fill the cooler halfway with cold tap water.

– Submerge and insert a temperature probe.

– Monitor the water temp as per our ‘danger zone’ guidelines.

– Replace water if required or add ice if you need to cool down.

Microwave Defrosting for Smaller Cuts

Typically a whole turkey can’t fit in a microwave oven.

But if you have individual cuts of meat this is a great option.

– Transfer the frozen meat to a microwave-safe container.

– Set it to defrost function for 15 minutes.

– Check as per the instructions above.

– Repeat if necessary until thawed.

– Cook straight away.


Important Food Safety Considerations

– Note down the expiry date and plan to cook it before freezing.

– Freeze it for up to 3-4 months.

– Estimate the time to defrost and check for a thorough thawing.

– The color, smell, and texture will indicate bad meat.

– Cook the turkey within 3 days of it thawing.

– Minimize air exposure.

– Do not keep the meat at room temperature for more than 60 minutes.

– Throw away if unsure.

– Contact medical services if you are suffering severe food poisoning.

How Will I Know if My Defrosted Turkey Has Gone Bad?

Air Exposure to the Raw Turkey Meat

Did you remove the turkey from the original packaging?

Or have noticed a breach in the seal?

Exposure to air accelerates the growth of bacteria.

Check the packaging for holes and wrap it tightly with cling film if required.

Texture of Bad Turkey

If you are still not sure then check for a slimy texture.

Air exposure can also cause moisture loss.

This can be indicated by a dry texture.

Color of Rancid Turke

Fresh and safe-to-eat turkey is light in color.

A  brownish color is not what you want to see.

Bad meat will also tend to go a gray color from oxidization.

Inspect for signs of discoloration in raw poultry carefully.

This is because it might be a different color in the middle or at the bottom.

Plus you have to factor in the different types of meat.

As it is darker around the leg and the thighs.

Smell of Spoiled Turkey

Probably the most effective way to know if meat products are bad.

As a foul odor and your natural response are hard to ignore.

This definitive smell may stink of rotten eggs.

Or have a characteristic sulfur-like smell.


A Summary for Keeping Thawed Turkey Refrigerated

– Be sure it has completely thawed.

– Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days after confirmation.

– Use the recommended safe thawing methods.

– Refer to the physical signs for telling if the meat has gone bad.

– It helps to set out a timeframe for defrosting and cooking turkey.

– Throw away if unsure.

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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