You just prepared a large turkey dinner, and now you have many leftovers. While you can place the leftovers in the refrigerator, they will last longer in the freezer. You must follow certain precautions when freezing a turkey dinner to prevent the risk of a food-borne illness. If you know that you will have leftovers you need to freeze, make sure that you have plenty of clean containers so that you can prepare the leftovers for the freezer within two hours of serving the dinner.
Prepare the turkey for freezing two hours after serving. If the turkey is left out for more than two hours after serving, the chances of food poisoning increase.
Remove any stuffing from the turkey. If you stuffed the turkey, scoop out all the stuffing from inside the turkey after you remove it from the oven. Keep the stuffing hot in the oven at 200 degrees F during dinner, and then store it in an airtight container.
Cut the turkey into smaller pieces. Remove the turkey meat from the bones. Use a sharp knife to scrape all the meat off the bone.
Separate large quantities of turkey into smaller portions. Store the small portions in small and shallow covered containers. Smaller containers will allow the turkey to cool off more quickly. You can store the turkey like this for three to four days in the refrigerator before you place it in the freezer.
Place the sides in airtight containers. Sides like stuffing and gravy need to be used within one to two days once refrigerated.
Wrap the turkey in freezer paper or aluminum foil. Seal out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Write the date and contents on the package with a permanent marker so that you can use the oldest turkey portions first.
Place the sides in airtight containers or plastic zipper bags. Squeeze out the air from the plastic bags, and write the date on the sides. Place the sides in the freezer, and use them within one month.
Store frozen turkey for up to four to six months. You can store both the turkey and sides longer than the recommended time, but they will begin to lose their flavor.
- United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: Food Safety Information: Stuffing and Food Safety
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture: Let's Talk Turkey
- United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: Food Safety Information: Turkey Basics: Handling Cooked Dinners
- Never refrigerate uncooked stuffing. Always cook the stuffing ahead of time and either freeze it or cook it immediately.
- Pamela Follett/Demand Media