Traditionally, roast turkey is served during Thanksgiving and most households tend to have a lot of leftovers once the festivities are over. The good news is, you can freeze turkey, along with its sauces, and use whatever’s left of the bird for new dishes, including stews, casseroles, and sandwich fillings. It doesn’t really take much to freeze turkey properly especially if it’s uncooked.
Image used under Creative Commons from Andrea Goh
However, the cooked turkey must be stored with care and should be separated from its sauces to stay fresh longer. When frozen, roasted turkey can keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Uncooked frozen turkey will stay fresh longer, about 6 to 12 months.
The proper way to freeze cooked turkey is to separate the meat from the bones before freezing.
Freezing Cooked Turkey
Freezing cooked turkey is a little more complicated than that. Start by picking the pieces of meat with a carving knife, making sure to separate those with a smattering of sauces from sauce-free meat.
Work on the sauce-free meat first, carefully removing the bones and then placing the shredded meat in a bowl and set aside. Then, work on the meats with sauces, removing the meat that has been in contact with the sauce. Put the sauce-free meats in the bowl of shredded meat. On the other hand, the shredded meat with sauces must be kept in a separate bowl
Once the meat has been shredded, get several freezer-safe Ziploc bags and store the meat inside, squeezing as much air as you could in the process. Use a different bag for sauce-free shredded meat and meat that’s been exposed to the sauce. After filling the bags, get a marker, label the bags with the freezing date, and then stick them in the freezer, ensuring that the temperature is a constant 0°F.
Freezing Uncooked Turkey
Uncooked turkey is usually sold already frozen in a freezer-safe packaging. If are not ready to cook the turkey just yet, just stick the product in the freezer, original packaging and all. There is no need to repack the bird for freezing.
There are several ways to thaw frozen turkey properly and we will outline these methods below:
If it’s uncooked, you can defrost the turkey by transferring it from the freezer to the fridge and leaving it to thaw for 24 hours. Make sure the fridge’s temperature is set at 40 °F or below for faster and even thawing.
As for cooked turkey, you can thaw a bag by letting it thaw in the fridge overnight or sticking it in the fridge to defrost.
Cold Water Thawing
Another method of thawing a uncooked turkey is cold water thawing. Essentially, you will submerge the frozen turkey – packaging and all – in a basin of cold water. Make sure the packaging is leak-proof before submerging the turkey.
Image used under Creative Commons from Kristie Moser
If you’re in a rush, you can also remove the frozen turkey meat from the Ziploc bag, transfer it to a covered ceramic bowl and then stick it in the microwave. Set the microwave on high and microwave for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Having frozen turkey in stock – regardless if it’s cooked or uncooked – gives you plenty of opportunities to whip up special dishes that the whole family will enjoy. Now that you know how to freeze turkey, you can store the bird properly for future uses.