Safely Refreeze a Turkey

Close up of Oven Bag Turkey

The Spruce 

If you cooked a turkey for the holidays and have lots of food leftover, you might have an urge to freeze the leftovers. Or, if your plans changed, and you never got around to cooking your turkey you may wonder if you can freeze the uncooked turkey. Learn all about the ins and outs of freezing turkey.

When to Refreeze

Cooked or uncooked turkey can safely be refrozen, as long as you refreeze it within three days of thawing. You should only refreeze turkey if it's been handled properly at every step along the way. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, that means it needs to have been thawed in the refrigerator and it can't have been left out at room temperature for more than two hours at any time. Turkey that has been thawed on the counter or left out for long periods shouldn't be refrozen. In fact, it shouldn't be eaten at all. It's better to waste food than to risk your health by eating something that may no longer be safe to eat.

Note that the turkey may be slightly drier when do finally defrost and cook it. Each time you heat it up, you lose a little more moisture. Just add a bit of gravy or your condiment of choice, and it'll be just as good as it was the first time. 

Freezer-Safe Packaging

While you can certainly wrap up the whole bird, bones and all, for the freezer, it's better to divide the turkey into meal-size servings before you put it in the freezer. This will make it easier to use. Instead of having to thaw out the whole turkey, you'll be able to grab just what you need. This technique will also save a lot of space in your freezer.

Be sure to wrap your turkey thoroughly so it doesn't become freezer-burned prematurely. Package it in a freezer bag or freezer paper to keep it sufficiently protected.

refreezing turkey
The Spruce Eats / Miguel Co


When you're ready to use your leftover turkey, just transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator. Allow one day of thaw time for every four pounds of meat.

Make Use of the Bones

Turkey bones make excellent broth, so don't throw them in the trash. If you're too busy to make broth now, you can always freeze the carcass for later. Save the carcass in a ziptop bag. If you are doing a lot of cooking, feel free to stash carrot peels, onion skin, or celery bits in the bag. You can boil them all together for tasty stock. If you prefer, make a pot of turkey stock right away so you have less to store in the freezer. The broth will keep in the fridge for three to four days but will keep in the freezer indefinitely. For easy use, store the broth in smaller containers (even an ice tray works well) so you can easily add the stock when you need it. Homemade stock is wonderful to have on hand for making soup, and far superior to anything you can buy at the grocery store.