Proper Handling of Leftover Turkey

Thanksgiving leftover turkeys are more likely to be contaminated with bacteria if not handled properly.


Judy Harrison, the Food Safety Extension Specialist of University of Georgia said that leftover turkey will keep in the refrigerator for three or four days. On the other hand, the use of stuffing and gravy should be within one or two days.

Harrison later gave more tips in handling turkeys for preservation and security against bacteria.

It is best to cook stuffing outside the turkey, but if you stuff the bird, stuff it loosely. Once you have cooked the turkey and the stuffing to at least 165 degrees, remove the stuffing from the turkey. Harmful bacteria are more likely to be a problem if the stuffing stays in the bird after cooking. Set aside the stuffing you want to save as a leftover, and keep it in the refrigerator.

Don’t leave the turkey out after the meal. From the time the turkey comes out of the oven, you have about 2 hours to carve it, serve it and then refrigerate or freeze the leftovers.

It’s best to slice the leftover meat or turkey so it cools fast. When refrigerating meat or stuffing, store it in shallow covered containers so it will cool quickly.

Using aluminum foil or freezer paper in packing leftovers in the freezer would avoid freezer burn in longer storage of one month.

Be sure to bring any leftover gravy to a rolling boil before serving, and reheat any solid leftovers like stuffing or meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

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