How long is ground turkey good in the freezer? The short answer? Three to four months.
While uncooked, whole poultry can retain its quality for one year in the freezer, time is – you guessed it! – money. On average, Hong Kong retailers are pricing frozen birds at around HK$855 (US$110). Ground turkey (turkey mince) shines through as a lower-cost alternative to roasting a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas that’s also readily available in most grocery stores.
According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), ground turkey is safe for consumption indefinitely if continuously frozen. That’s because freezing inactivates any microbes – i.e., bacteria, yeasts, and moulds – present in poultry until the meat is taken out to thaw.
But there’s food that’s safe, and then there’s food that’s good.
For optimal quality, the USDA recommends stowing uncooked ground turkey in the freezer for a maximum of four months.
On the other hand, leftover ground turkey will keep well in the fridge for three to four days once cooked, or two to six months if you’re going the freezer route.
Fresh, uncooked ground turkey should be frozen within one to two days of purchase, the USDA says.
Note that your freezer should be kept at or near -18°C (0° F) to retain your food’s vitamin content, colour, flavour, and texture.
“If frozen at peak quality, thawed foods emerge tasting better than foods frozen near the end of their useful life,” the USDA adds. “So freeze items you won’t use quickly sooner rather than later.”
Properly packaging your ground turkey before freezing further helps maintain quality and prevent freezer burn. It’s safe to freeze poultry directly in its original packaging, but this type of wrap is permeable to air and prone to leakage, states the USDA.
It’s best to overwrap these packages for prolonged storage and to ensure safe handling: Raw turkey and its juices can be contaminated with germs such as salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and campylobacter which can make you ill, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention point out.
Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety suggests that uncooked poultry should be stored below cooked foods in the refrigerator – or in this case, the freezer – to prevent juices of the raw meat from contaminating the latter.
Around Thanksgiving and Christmas, when most turkey is eaten, frozen storage solutions require home cooks to be at the top of their game both before the seasonal feast – don’t forget to give yourself time to thaw your turkey properly – and afterwards.
The safest way to thaw a frozen bird is in the refrigerator, says Health Canada, which advises that this takes 24 hours for each 2.5kg (5½ lb).
You can thank us later.