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How long can fresh uncooked turkey keep in the fridge?

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  • vvv03 Nov 19, 2010 06:33 AM
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I'm a member of the Park Slope Food Coop. They will be selling fresh Turkeys starting today and the last shipment they will get is Monday. It's first come first served, so it's risky to wait until the last day to get one. I have no room in my freezer to freeze it, not that I would care to do that anyway. How long is it safe to keep a fresh turkey in the fridge before cooking?

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  1. That's hard to say without knowing what "fresh" means in this particular case. According to previous threads on this subject, the "fresh" turkeys sold in supermarkets can legally be maintained at 25 degrees. To the rest of the world, that's frozen. No problem keeping those in the fridge for a week as they defrost. Killed and processed yesterday would be a different story.

    4 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      How different? I'm getting one of those tomorrow and won't cook it until Thursday.


      1. re: JuniorBalloon


        1. re: ospreycove

          Thanks for the link. It didn't work directly, but I navigated to the info. Here's what it says. "Buy your turkey only 1 to 2 days before you plan to cook it." Doesn't really tell you waht to do if you're going to have it longer than that, but it's a start. I'll be asking the woman who runs the processing class tomorrow. I'll post what she says.


      2. re: greygarious

        I'm pretty sure these turkeys fall more in the killed yesterday category. Or the day before yesterday.

      3. I just looked on the Coop site and they said they are generally slaughtered the same day (shudder.) Any ideas how long it will keep in the fridge?

        1 Reply
        1. re: vvv03

          Wow, same day processing. Well, in that case for rabbits and game birds, from day it was "dispatched" a maximum of 5 days is considered prudent, and advisable for stronger meats. such as duck, wild goose, squirrel. I would double check to verify slaughter date.

        2. I would brine it. That seems to be a good way to keep a bird fresh for longer. Don't start the brine before Sunday though (3 days brine and 1 day to dry off).

          3 Replies
          1. re: Produce Addict

            Three days is a very long time to brine and risks oversalting unless it's a very weak brine. 12-24 hours is more like it for a smallish turkey. Over 16 lbs, 2 days. Google Cooks' Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen turkey recipes (or watch the marathon on PBS Create Saturday) and follow their procedures. I only brine this time of year, when it's cold enough for the bird to brine on the porch or in the garage, since there's never enough room in the refrigerator.

            If you get the bird on Saturday and start brining it Tuesday night you'll be all set. Let it dry uncovered in the refrigerator overnight starting Wednesday evening - that will make for a crisp skin.

            1. re: greygarious

              sorry i meant a dry brine--3-4 days is standard.

              1. re: Produce Addict

                Yeah, I dry brine 3-4 days when doing Zuni chicken.

          2. We raise and process our own ducks and chickens. I would not want to eat a bird slaughtered the same day. We 'age' our birds in the fridge for at least two days before we freeze or cook them. It seems to improve the texture of the meat. Please don't ask me why I don't know what happens scientifically but the birds seem to be more tender when they are aged.

            So I'd recommend getting them a few days in advance. You could always brine the bird in a cooler with lots of ice if you don't have room in the fridge.

            2 Replies
            1. re: rosepoint

              Nice to hear from someone with experience!

              Can I ask how many days in a cold fridge you'd feel comfortable keeping a bird (unbrined) before cooking?

              1. re: rosepoint

                When beef is aged, enzymes start to break down the meat, tenderizing it. I am sure the same thing happens with poultry. The sole time I bought a turkey at the local poultry farm, the bird was chewy despite ample cooking time and the correct temperature. The skin (which seemed thicker than on supermarket turkeys) was brown but its underside was rubbery.

              2. I think it matters how they were packaged. The birds I saw at TJs today - sealed in plastic - had a sell by date in mid-December. I would imagine that most birds will be marked with a relliable sell by date.

                1. Just finished the turkey rpocessing class. Very interesting to say the least. Will post more later. The woman that ran the class said a fresh bird can be kept in the fridge for 6 days.


                  12 Replies
                  1. re: JuniorBalloon

                    I posted a blog entry for the processing class. Br forewarned there are a few graphic pics of the butchering.


                    1. re: JuniorBalloon

                      JB, I've just read your blog entry about this and had to come back here to thank you. Very interesting info and some great photos.

                      1. re: OldDog

                        Well thank you for the compliment. We cooked it last night and it was delicious. This was the first heritage turkey I've cooked. After reading on the web I was thoroughly confused about what temp to cook it at and to what temp. You find the range of oven temps from 325 to 450, and internal temps of 140 to 165. I started at 350 and was aiming for 140. I tested the bird when it reached 140 and it was far from done. I cooked up to 165 and it was still not done. Their was a bit of color to the juice and the joints were not loosening. One of my problems is getting the thermometer inserted into a good spot. I started by trying to insert it into the thickest part of the thigh, but I don't know if I got it. After that reached 140 I checked the breast and it was about 150. I cooked it with the thermometer there until it reached 165. After checking the bird I went back to the thigh. it was a few degrees less and I cooked it from there to 175. At that point I took it out of the oven, tented it with foil and let it sit for 20 mins.

                        The breast meat was cooked beautifully and was moist and tasty. The legs and thigh were just a touch under cooked. One of the articles I read suggested to remove the leg and thigh and let those continue to cook. That would have worked well for this bird, but then you don't get the "Whole bird to the table" presentation. Right now the left overs or simmering in water for soup.

                        All in all it was a very interesting and rewarding experience. Next year I'm looking into raising a few pigs and will now try to add a couple of turkeys.


                        1. re: JuniorBalloon

                          You carve the turkey at table? How do you do that? Do you serve it on a cuttiing board?

                          1. re: c oliver

                            Not on, but near. Carved on a cutting board and served on a platter.


                            1. re: JuniorBalloon

                              So you bring a cutting board into the DR, put the turkey on it, carve turkey, then put it back on the platter. Both practically and aesthically, wouldn't it be better to do it all in the kitchen and then 'reveal" the beautifully carved bird on the platter? Never heard of doing it that way.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                My father always id it that way. I don't, but it was important to him. No disrespect meant, but there are lots of ways to do things each of us has not heard of!

                                1. re: magiesmom

                                  And I didn't mean disrespect either. It was just that flash of a mental picture that seemed awkward. As you say, many ways to skin that cat.

                                2. re: c oliver

                                  In my mothers house there is no seperation between kitchen and dining room. The turkey was on a cutting board. Pieces were carved off and put on a platter. People served them selves off of the platter. It was easy and aesthetically pleasing as I could have hoped for. This is how it was done this time. I've done and seen it done several different ways.


                              2. re: c oliver

                                I have never not dealt with carving at the table, and neither did my parents. We put the turkey on nice, large platters and carve it there. Neither I nor they had huge gatherings, so carving to serve is not a hardship. Generally, everyone can be served by slicing right from the breast, thigh, legs; the major carving to get all the meat off before the leftovers are put away happens later in the kitchen.

                                It's a matter of tradition, preference, and practicality depending on a group's needs, as shown in this prior thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/663677

                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  Great thread. And I wasn't tryingto hijack this. What one's family and friends does just get ingrained as THE way, I suppose. Now back to your regular programming :)

                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                    The deconstructed turkey episode of Julia and Jacques was shown repeatedly in the last week. It's a great way to make carving at the table easier while still maintaining the appearance of a whole bird. Pre-roast butchering involves removing the legs and hacking out the backbone. The wishbone is removed to make carving the breast easier. The ends of the wings and drumsticks are hacked off. The wings are twisted around and tucked under the back. The thigh bone is removed and the space packed with stuffing. A long piece of tin foil is folded over itself repeatedly to form a long ribbon which is wrapped around the thigh to hold the stuffing in place (removed before the end of roasting to allow the skin to brown) A mound of stuffing is placed on a sheet pan and the breast placed over it. The legs are also placed on the sheet pan for roasting. When done, he slid a cookie sheet under the stuffing so as to transfer stuffing and breast to platter at the same time. Because the ends of the drumsticks were gone, they could easily pull out the tendons. Then he leaned the legs into position against the breast - the casual observer would not realize it's not a whole bird. This method also allowed the meat to roast faster than would an intact bird. The parts removed all went to make stock and gravy.