How Long Can You Keep A Fresh Turkey In The Refrigerator

How Long Can You Keep A Fresh Turkey In The Refrigerator?

Last Updated on May 15, 2024 by Shari Mason

The holiday season is approaching, and many of us are eagerly anticipating the delicious roasted turkey that is traditionally served on our tables.

Some people are considering buying fresh turkey ahead of time to avoid the rush. 

But fresh turkey is unlike other meat you can store in the freezer for extended periods. Sounds tricky, right? 

So, how long can you keep a fresh turkey in the refrigerator? Let’s find out.

How Long Should You Keep Fresh Turkey In The Fridge? 

raw turkey on a wooden board

A fresh turkey can stay in the fridge for up to two days if properly stored. You can rely on the best-by date on its packaging when storing it in the refrigerator.

It is recommended to cook your turkey within two days to achieve the best flavor and taste. If you plan on buying turkey ahead of time, you can freeze it properly to maximize its shelf-life.

It will help if you store raw turkey in low temperatures, as high temperatures could speed up spoilage.


Should You Rely On Best-By Date? 

Yes, you can rely on the “best by” date on the packaging of the raw turkey you bought at the supermarket as guidelines for storing your turkey in the refrigerator.

Read: Why Is My Deep Fried Turkey Turning Black?

“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.”

– Paul Prudhomme, Celebrity Chef

It will help if you seal it, and the storage temperature should stay below 40 degrees. If you are not planning to cook it within the date, it is better to freeze it to avoid spoilage. Find out how to remove the giblets from frozen turkey here.

How Come Stores Can Keep Fresh Turkey In The Fridge Longer? 

Stores can keep the fresh turkey fresh in the fridge longer because of the even temperature of its storage.

Raw turkey could remain fresh longer if appropriately sealed and stays in constant cold temperatures. In this way, the spoilage of the turkey can delay and maintain its freshness.

The freezer storage at the supermarket is also well-maintained by the store’s technicians to keep the temperature needed to avoid spoilage. 

Read: Should You Cook Turkey At 325 or 350 Degrees?

How To Know It Has Gone Bad 

cleaning raw turkey in sink


One of the obvious signs that a raw turkey has gone bad is when its texture has started to be slimy and far from soft and fresh.

The changes in the texture are because of the bacteria that build up in the flesh, deteriorating the turkey’s meat.

Read: Can You Mix Ground Turkey And Ground Beef?


The smell of a spoiled turkey is like a rotten egg. It is because of the pathogens that began to spread in the flesh.

Pathogens in meat are not like the ones in food spoilage, but they could also cause health risks to people, especially kids and immunocompromised persons who consume spoiled meat. [1] 

Find out how to cook smoked turkey legs in the oven here.


The color change is the most apparent sign of meat spoilage. You will notice that a fresh turkey’s white or pinkish flesh has patches of darkened color or green.

There can be molds on some sides, but dark, bruise-like patches will show on the meat skin when it is spoiled. But how can you tell when ground turkey is done?

3 Tips on Freezing Turkey 

  1. Cover the fresh turkey with 5 to 6 layers of high-quality, food-grade plastic wrap. Make sure not to leave any skin exposed.
  2. Store the wrapped raw turkey in the coolest part of your freezer, and do not take it out unless you’re ready to cook it.
  3. If leftover cut parts of turkey, place them in a food-grade air-tight container to avoid and put them in the corner of the freezer so they won’t get disturbed until cooking time.

Read: How To Keep Turkey Burgers From Falling Apart?


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It will be best to store your fresh turkey inside the refrigerator in sealed packaging to avoid fast spoilage. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eYou can also keep it wrapped with plastic and freeze it to maximize the best-by shelf-life. Learn u003ca href=u0022 to cook two turkeys at the same time hereu003c/au003e.

u003cstrongu003eWhat will happen to the fresh turkey if you wait longer?u003c/strongu003e

If you wait longer than two days or past its best-by date, the turkey might get spoiled and not in its best taste when cooked.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eTurkey’s cooked past the best-by date usually doesn’t taste fresh and savory anymore.

Let’s Sum It Up 

You can keep your fresh turkey in the refrigerator for two days. If cooked past the suggested store duration, there might be some changes in taste and texture, so better take note of the date.

A fresh turkey bought at the supermarket should be cooked right away. It is not advisable to let it sit at room temperature due to the high chance of contamination.

Following the guidelines in storing food, especially raw meat, is essential to avoid any possible health emergency that could ruin the moment of enjoying the food.



Shari Mason

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