Can you eat a turkey that has been frozen for 6 years?

I’ve heard of all the different ways to defrost a turkey, but I wanted to know: Which one is the safest or quickest? Also, what are my options if I’m stupid and waited until the last minute to thaw my turkey?

CBS / Lionsgate To get to the bottom of this, I turned to three experts: Archie Magoulas, a USDA rep, Kelly Reynolds, a germ expert and health professor at the University of Arizona, and Zachary Waters, head chef of The Spaniard who handles and cooks poultry on a daily basis.

How long does Turkey last in fridge?

A guide to storing Thanksgiving leftovers
Food Fridge Freezer
Turkey, cooked 3-4 days 2-3 months
Meat (ham, beef), cooked 3-4 days 2-3 months
Gravy 1-2 days 2-3 months
Cranberry sauce 10-14 days 1-2 months


3. How to thaw a turkey outside

It's November—is the temperature somewhere between 32 and 40 degrees outside? That's certainly not impossible, and if it is, congratulations, you've come across the quickest way to thaw a turkey while leaving as much usable space in your kitchen/sink/refrigerator as possible: put the aforementioned bucket on the back porch and let that baby thaw back there. The only thing to keep an eye on now is the air temperature itself—and also, I suppose, the neighbor's dogs. Maybe invest in bucket with a lid.

Should I cover raw turkey in fridge?

A whole fresh turkey should be left in the original packaging until it is ready to cook. It can also be placed on a tray or in a pan in the refrigerator in case there are punctures or tears in the packaging.

Do you thaw turkey in packaging?

If short on time, you may thaw the turkey in cold water in the original packaging, making sure the water is changed every 30 minutes to keep the turkey surface cold. Thaw turkey in unopened packaging in a pan in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf. Allow approximately 4 hours per pound to thaw.

Safety Tips for Thawing Frozen Ground Turkey

  1. Do not defrost the frozen ground turkey in hot water.
  2. Do not leave the thawed ground turkey at room temperature; try to cook it immediately.
  3. Do not leave the frozen ground turkey at room temperature for more than two hours.
  4. Do not leave the thawing the ground turkey in outdoor spaces, or in closed spaces like a car or home basement etc., because the meat can get easily contaminated with bacteria in these places.

Medium: Thaw in Cold Water

How long it takes: Allow approximately 30 minutes for every pound of turkey. A 15-pound bird will take about 7½ to 8 hours to thaw completely.

Tips for thawing turkey in cold water:

  • Keep the turkey in its original wrapping, and place it in a larger, leak-proof plastic bag. Squeeze out extra air and seal the bag.
  • Place the sealed bag breast-side down in a sink or bucket large enough so the turkey will be completely submerged. Fill with cold water. You may need to cover the turkey with a plate and place some heavy cans on top of it to keep it totally submerged. Change the cold water every 30 minutes.
  • Cook the turkey immediately after thawing.

It is also possible to use a combination of the two methods: Use the fridge for the first two days of thawing, and finish in the sink early Thanksgiving morning.

How to defrost a turkey in the refrigerator

Here’s our no-mess method for thawing a frozen-solid turkey in the refrigerator:

  1. Clear out a spot for the turkey on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator so that any juices that leak won’t contaminate other items.
  2. Keep the turkey in its original, airtight packaging.
  3. Place the turkey in a large pan to catch any liquid that will accumulate as it thaws.
  4. Place the pan with the frozen turkey in your refrigerator and allow to thaw 1 day for every 4 pounds of bird.

How long can you keep an unfrozen turkey in the refrigerator?

Thawing in the Refrigerator:

Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.

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Cooking Frozen Ground Turkey: Step by Step Guide

There are several ways to cook ground turkey. It can be cooked using the stovetop method or in the oven, or in the slow cooker. You can also cook ground turkey in an Instant pot!

Direct cooking without thawing is quick and faster than the other methods, but it does not give as good results after cooking as the one that includes thawed ground turkey.

Here are few simple steps to cook the frozen ground turkey.

  1. The first step is to take the frozen turkey out of the freezer and unwrap it.
  2. Place this frozen ground turkey in a suitable skillet or cooking pan.
  3. Pour water over the turkey in a small amount, just enough to cover its bottom.
  4. The water will keep the meat from burning and will defrost the frozen turkey through its steam.
  5. Now cover this pan and cook the water to a simmer.
  6. Uncover the pan and use a fork or spoon to scrape the thawed outer layer of frozen meat.
  7. Repeat this scraping step every 3-5 minutes as soon as the meat on the out layer starts turning a little brown.
  8. When the entire ground turkey is defrosted, you can add other ingredients like carrots, onions, peppers etc., to cook more.
  9. Sauté this defrosted ground turkey with seasonings and spices of your choice until it is evenly ground and fully cooked.

These steps are best when you want to quickly defrost the frozen ground turkey and cook it right away on the stovetop. There are methods as well that you can try before cooking the frozen ground turkey.

Cooking Frozen Ground Turkey in Oven

If you are planning to enjoy turkey meatballs or a delicious turkey casserole, then oven cooking is the best choice. But for that, you will have to thaw the frozen turkey according to the methods mentioned below.

Cooking frozen ground turkey directly in the oven is not probably a good idea as it will be difficult to add seasonings to the meat during baking or roasting. But you can try this method by adding other ingredients to the turkey once it is cooked halfway through.

Cooking Frozen Ground turkey in a Slow cooker

Slow cooking is the best way to cook delicious tasting meat juice texture. You can add frozen ground turkey directly to the slow cooker along with other ingredients and increase the cooking time by 2-3 hours.

Things You’ll Need

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Large pot
  • Spoon
  • 5 US gal (19 l) food-safe cooler or bucket with lid
  • Roasting pan
  • Paper towels
  • Instant-read meat thermometer
  • Oven mitts
  • Aluminum foil

Hold on, though. Wouldn’t cooking the turkey for two hours kill any bacteria anyway? Nope, says the USDA

FOX In addition to the other bacteria that might breed at any point while the turkey rests at room temperature, according to Magoulas, when bacteria hang out in the danger zone (again, that’s anywhere between 40°F and 140°F) for longer than two hours, they start multiplying much quicker and start releasing dangerous toxins which CANNOT be destroyed by cooking and heat. Not to mention that handling a large turkey means to a larger risk of cross contamination to other foods, utensils, kitchen prep areas.


  • Avoid brining the turkey for more than 24 hours or the meat will toughen.

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  • Do not use a self-basting or Kosher turkey because they already have salt added.

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There are no quick ways to defrost a turkey

You might be thinking, it’s ok, surely there’s a way to speed defrost my turkey before I smoke it.

Unfortunately not.

Defrosting a full turkey takes around 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Unfortunately, there is no fast way to safely defr
Unfortunately, there is no fast way to safely defrost a frozen turkey

To make matters worse, you can’t throw a frozen turkey into hot water to defrost it quickly either. This can increase the bacterial mass of the meat by up to 20-times because it leaves large sections of the meat in the danger zone as sections towards the center continue to defrost.

A microwave isn’t the answer either.

It can take up to four hours for a frozen turkey to fully defrost in the microwave, and, because of the way that a microwave heats food, it doesn’t defrost the meat consistently. So, we’re back to the same danger zone issues.

And don’t think about using hot water or anything like that either – it can lead to a cooked outside and an undercooked middle, which can cause bacteria to flourish, and the actual washing of the turkey can spread that bacteria to your sink and work surfaces, increasing the chances of cross-contamination.

Related questions:

Is it safe to cook frozen meat without thawing?

It is safe so no need to worry if you have no time to defrost. The only thing to know before cooking is that in order for the meat to cook thoroughly you have to cook 50 % longer than you should. Make sure the meat is defrosted and continue to cook.

How long does it take to cook ground turkey on the stovetop?

It usually takes up to 3- 5 minutes for the meat to start going brown. Start stirring until the meat is no longer pink over medium heat.

What colour should the ground turkey be when cooked?

You can always use a thermometer just in case you want everything to be safe and thoroughly cooked. All you have to do is make sure that the meat is not pink, cook a bit longer and your meal is ready.