How Long should Frozen Turkey Stay in the Freezer?

All types of meat fall under the category of perishable foods which require to be stored under low temperatures all through and so is turkey. It’s therefore important to keep your turkey frozen for best quality until you are ready to use it.

How long can you keep a turkey in the freezer?

You can keep a whole turkey in the freezer indefinitely as long as the temperatures remain constant throughout. However, it can only retain its best quality for a year and would be best if you use it within that time.

If you are freezing turkey parts like the breast, the drumsticks, or any other part, they will keep fresh in the freezer for up to 8-9 months. while cooked, whole turkey cuts will keep fresh in the freezer for up to 6 months. The quality of your turkey once you thaw later will depend on how fresh it was when you put it in the freezer.

Therefore, ensure you freeze turkey while it’s still fresh whether whole or in pieces for it to retain its best quality throughout the storage period.

How can you tell if a frozen turkey is bad?

Store-bought turkey will have a sell-by date indicated on the packaging to guide you on how soon you should consume it before it goes bad. Otherwise, you can simply use your senses to determine its freshness.

When turkey starts to go bad it will have the following traits:

  • It will feel slimy on touching
  • It will have an awful smell like that of rotten eggs
  • The skin will start to dull and become gray

Its best to discard your turkey right away if you notice any of the traits above to avoid food-borne diseases associated with such.

How long is frozen butterball turkey good for?

A Butterball turkey is a tender, juicy, and gluten-free turkey that is raised with no hormones. According to, it’s a high-quality product since they use natural ingredients and is minimally processed.

Another good thing about butterball turkey is that it requires little preparation before cooking since it’s already pre-brined. As a matter of fact, some people cook it as it is with no additional ingredients. But, the most important thing is safety. Check the expiry date to ensure it’s not been lying in the freezer for way too long.

You can keep your butterball turkey frozen for up to 2 years. Once you thaw it and don’t get time to cook immediately, keep it refrigerated for another 3-4 days before cooking.

Is a four-year-old frozen turkey still good?

A four-year-old frozen turkey is only good to consume if it has been stored at or below 0°F throughout. Temperature fluctuation is a major issue when it comes to perishable foods and can therefore make your turkey unfit for consumption if it has been in the freezer for that long.

If you are intending to freeze turkey for a longer period, store it at the farthest and the coldest part of the freezer so that it doesn’t suffer temperature fluctuations when the door is opened.

How to prepare turkey that’s frozen for years

Although you might want to thaw your turkey first before cooking just like it’s the norm for frozen foods. When it comes to turkey that has been in the freezer for years, I personally prefer roasting It without thawing it first. In the process of thawing the turkey leaks juices and that is what you want to retain to keep it moist especially if it had been frozen for long.

Simply remove the wrapping, place your turkey in a tray then put it in the oven. It will definitely take longer to cook compared to a thawed one but, it cooking slowly helps retain the juices so you don’t end up with dry meat.  

Safe ways to thaw turkey

When thawing the turkey, it’s important to put into consideration its weight. The weight of your turkey will dictate the method suitable for it to thaw fast and safely. For instance, it’s safer to thaw a bigger turkey in the refrigerator or a cold water bath as the microwave tends to cook the outer part before the inner part is thawed.

Here are three methods of thawing turkey:


Refrigeration is the safest way to thaw your turkey especially for bigger turkeys that take days to thaw completely. However, you may need to start the preparations earlier since it tends to be slower compared to other methods. The good news is that refrigeration keeps your turkey below the danger zone throughout the thawing process hence protecting it from harmful bacteria which multiply rapidly at 40°F and above.

Again you can refreeze the turkey in case you change your mind without having to cook it first.

To thaw turkey in the fridge, simply place it on a tray to catch the juice that drips while defrosting then put it in the fridge until completely thawed.

Thawing time will depend on the weight of the turkey. Normally, 2 pounds of turkey will take 12 to 14 hours to thaw completely in the fridge. If you are not sure about the weight of your turkey, simply poke the thicker parts with a fork, if it goes through then it is thawed, if it is still hard  put it back in the fridge and allow it more time to thaw completely.

In a cold water bath

Thawing turkey in a cold water bath is faster than refrigeration, however, it may not be a suitable method to use overnight since you will need to change the water after every 30 minutes.

To thaw turkey in a cold water bath;

  1. Put the turkey in a water proof bag to prevent water from coming into contact with the meat.
  2. Put water in a basin large enough to hold the turkey or better still use the sink.
  3. Submerge the turkey into the water
  4. Change the water after every 30 minutes

Once your turkey is completely thawed, cook it immediately before the harmful bacteria start to multiply. Also, if you wish to refreeze the turkey, cook it first before putting it back in the freezer.

In the microwave

Using a microwave to thaw your turkey is no doubt the fastest method of the three. However, it’s only suitable on frozen turkey pieces e.g the breast which can easily defrost without cooking the outside part too much. When using this method, be ready to cook the turkey immediately since it will be cooked partially hence creating a favorable environment for bacteria to multiply if left on the counter.

To defrost a turkey in the microwave;

  1. Remove the wrapping on the meat
  2. Put it in a microwave-safe tray/dish to catch the juice produced during the process
  3. Put the meat in the microwave and set to defrost. A 2 pound turkey will take 10 to 12 minutes to defrost completely in the microwave.
  4. Flip the turkey while half way done to ensure it defrosts evenly.

If you wish to refreeze the turkey, cook it thoroughly before putting it back in the freezer.

If you feel like you are running out of time you can simply pop it in the oven while still frozen. Yes, it’s absolutely safe to cook a frozen turkey. However, it will take much longer to be ready compared to thawed turkey.

As a matter of fact, pre-stuffed turkey is meant to be cooked in its frozen state. Regardless of how much time you may have in the world don’t be tempted to thaw a pre-stuffed turkey. The raw stuffing cause bacteria to multiply rapidly once they thaw.

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