• For best flavor, yield and safety, cook only the amount of turkey needed. Cook progressively, in batches. While this is not always possible, it is essential that turkey be cooked ahead only if it can be quickly cooled and properly stored.

    The maximum time from completion of cooking to refrigerator storage, including deboning, slicing, etc., should be 2 hours. However, the National Turkey Federation recommends that the time be even shorter, if possible.

    The speed of cooling depends on a number of factors, such as the size of the refrigerator, its maximum air movement and the amount of food in the refrigerator. So, it's important for you to know about the capabilities of your own equipment.

    Cooling cooked turkey

    • Make sure all utensils and working surfaces are clean and sanitized.
    • Remove meat from bone, with clean, sanitized hands or wearing clean, disposable food handling gloves.
    • Also, review the Sanitation section of the Safe Handling chapter for more guidelines.
    • Slice roasts, rolls and large pieces of meat so they will cool more quickly.
    • "Shingle" slices or pieces of turkey in chilled, sanitized, shallow pans.
    • Fill pan no more than 1-inch deep with turkey.
    • Set pan with turkey in a second pan, filled with ice.
    • Move each pan into refrigerator as soon as it is filled.
    • Remember to check temperature of turkey during cooling process.
    • After turkey is cooled, cover tightly with plastic wrap or lid and refrigerate at 35ºF to 40ºF or freeze.

      We recommend cooked, sliced turkey reach 40ºF in 2 hours or less.

    Cooling turkey stock and gravy

    • Pour into shallow containers.
    • Set stockpot in pan of ice water or running cold water bath.
    • Stir to speed cooling.
    • Cover and refrigerate at 35ºF to 40ºF.
    • Check temperature of stock during cooling.
    • Cool stock to 40ºF in 2 hours or less.

    Freezing cooked turkey

    • Debone and slice per Cooling Section (above).
    • Package in small, evenly shaped portions no more than 2 inches thick. This will maintain quality and help freeze more quickly.
    • Use moisture/vapor-resistant wrap, such as freezer paper or heavy-duty aluminum foil.
    • Label and date packages.
    • Use dated packages in a rotation of first in, first out.

    Storage of Cooked Turkey Products

      Refrigerator Storage in DAYS at 35ºF to 40ºF. Freezer Storage in MONTHS at 0ºF or Below.
    Parts, Slices, Turkey Pieces
    (not covered with gravy or broth)
    1 to 2
    1
    Parts, Slices, Turkey Pieces (covered with gravy or broth)
    1 to 2
    6
    Cooked Dishes Containing Turkey
    1 to 2
    4 to 6
    Gravy, Broth
    1 to 2
    2 to 3
    Source: USDA

     

 

Receiving & Storing
Recommended Refrigerator Thawing
Other Thawing Techniques
Storing Cooked Turkey

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