How long does turkey last in the fridge? How to store and reuse your Christmas dinner leftovers

Here’s how to safely store and reheat the turkey from your Christmas dinner

<p>You can keep cooked turkey safely in the fridge (Image: Adobe Stock)</p>

You can keep cooked turkey safely in the fridge (Image: Adobe Stock)

Once you’ve all had your fill or turkey at Christmas, chances are you’ll be stuck with plenty of leftovers. If you have turkey sitting in your fridge and are wondering if it is safe to eat, the UK Food Safety guidelines has the following advice.

Eating unsafe meat and poultry, such as turkey, could run the risk of getting food poisoning. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea.

Leftover turkey can be used for recipes such as stews, currys, ramen and plenty of other options. But make sure you haven’t waited too long to use up your last bits of meat. If you have any leftovers remaining, here’s what the official advice says:

Can you eat leftover turkey?

The UK Food Safety guidelines state the following advice for safely storing and reheating leftovers:

  • Cooked turkey is safe in the fridge for up to three to four days. (Raw turkey is safe in the fridge for one to two days).
  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking to prevent food poisoning.
  • If you are refrigerating a big cut of meat, such as a turkey or roast, cut it into smaller pieces so they cool quickly. You do not need to wait until food is cool to store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Eat cooked turkey and dishes made with it, such as soup or a casserole, within 3 to 4 days. Freeze leftovers to store them for longer.
  • Reheat all leftovers thoroughly before serving or eating. Ensure it is piping hot throughout: it should reach a temperature of 75°C or above.

Why do you need to store leftovers in the fridge?

The bacteria Clostridium perfringens grows in cooked foods left at room temperature. It is the second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning.

The major symptoms are vomiting and abdominal cramps within 6 to 24 hours after eating.

  • Clostridium perfringens outbreaks occur most often in November and December
  • Many of these outbreaks have been linked to foods commonly served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef

Bacteria can grow rapidly if food is not refridgerated. After food is prepared, keep hot food hot and cold food cold.

Refrigerate or freeze any perishable food within two hours (one hour if food is exposed to temperatures above 90°F, such as in a hot car).

How to safely thaw frozen turkey?

Thaw turkey in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water (change the water every 30 minutes), or in the microwave. Avoid thawing foods on the counter.

A turkey must thaw at a safe temperature to prevent harmful germs from growing rapidly.

What are the symptoms of food poisoning?

Food poisoning symptoms can be anywhere from mild to very serious. Your symptoms may be different depending on the germ you swallowed.

The most common symptoms of food poisoning are:

  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

After you swallow an unsafe (contaminated) food or drink, it may take hours or days to develop symptoms. If you have symptoms of food poisoning, such as diarrhea or vomiting, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration (not having enough water in your body).