how long to safely store fresh turkey in refrigerator
November 21, 2022 5:32 PM   Subscribe

i'm finding conflicting information. Chef Google says a fresh (not frozen) turkey can last in the fridge for 1-2 days, or maybe 3 days tops. but I bought a fresh 12lb turkey at Whole Foods on Sat, the guy said "its buy-before date is 11/28 so you'll be fine for Thanksgiving" so I bought it & put it at the bottom of the fridge. now I'm wondering if it's gonna last.

and is it really sufficient to just hang out (wrapped/original packaging) in the bottom of the fridge? there's no need to surround it with ice or anything?

posted by jerome powell buys his sweatbands in bulk only to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: says:

Buy a fresh turkey one to two days before the day you plan to cook. If there is a 'best-by' or 'use by' date on the manufacturer's label, then you can keep fresh poultry, unopened, in the refrigerator until that date. Do not follow the 'sell by' date on the label. The 'sell-by' date is used by the store and is not a storage recommendation for consumers.

For longer storage, freeze a fresh turkey within one to two days of purchase or by the ‘best by’ date on the label. It will stay safe in the freezer indefinitely. Use within 12 months for best quality. 

posted by SageTrail at 5:46 PM on November 21, 2022

Best answer: It will be totally fine. Most fresh turkeys are actually stored at temperatures so low that they are partially frozen. Did you check it? It could very well be icy on the bottom or in the middle. Even if it is totally thawed, you are fine.

There are many ways to go, but a good routine I recommend for Tday turkeys:
Monday - Dry brine - Pull out any giblets and set aside for gravy/cat snacks, etc., then season it inside and out with salt/pepper/spices (no fresh herbs or raw garlic), cover and put it in the fridge.
Weds evening - Uncover it so the skin can dry out overnight in the fridge (crispier skin!)
Thurs - Take it out of the fridge 1-2 hours before roasting and slather it with seasoned butter (herbs, garlic, etc). Let it sit at room temp for up to 2 hours before putting it in the oven to roast.
posted by jenquat at 5:47 PM on November 21, 2022 [7 favorites]

Do not follow the 'sell by' date on the label. The 'sell-by' date is used by the store and is not a storage recommendation for consumers.

Because I misread this on my first pass: This is not intended to say that you should only keep the turkey for 1-2 days after purchase, regardless of the Sell By date. This is intended to be a reminder not to treat the Sell By date as a Use By date. The Sell By date accounts for the fact that the consumer will not consume the entire product on the day it is purchased, and therefore there is always some usable life after the Sell By date.

Your turkey will be fine.
posted by yuwtze at 8:41 PM on November 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A bit of history:
My father hunted, in England, mostly pheasant.
A nice older woman explained to my mother how to get the gamey taste out of wild meat:
"Gut the bird, and pluck it. Stuff a large bunch of grapes into the body cavity and sew it up. Use a bit of light cord to hang it by its neck on the back of the kitchen door. When the head comes off and you find the body on the floor, throw away the grapes and cook it."
Typically cow meat has to be hung in a similar way for a couple of weeks or it's inedibly tough. Longer is better, but consumers who don't understand this - that enzymes in the muscle cells break down the collagen and make it tender - are often upset to find out.
I had this conversation yesterday at work with a friend who'd tried to cook moose meat while hunting, and had been unable to eat it. A month later it was good.
Meat would be aged longer than it is, but there's a cost to the processor in having it hanging around not generating income.
There's nothing that happens to a dead animal that makes it poisonous. The only thing you have to worry about is toxins produced by bacteria growing on it. I realize that any wild animal is probably a lot cleaner than the product of a factory farm, which says a lot about our scientific food system, but I wouldn't worry about this for at least a week, and I'd consider that to be quite conservative.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 11:06 PM on November 21, 2022 [4 favorites]

Turn the fridge to a slightly cooler setting if you want to be extra cautious; you were right put it on the low shelf. I like a brined Turkey and might consider brining tonight and allowing it to dry Weds. night.
posted by theora55 at 6:45 AM on November 22, 2022

Response by poster: just for closure: nobody died. it was stored in the fridge for the 4-5 days with a little bit of ice outside the bag it was wrapped in, and worked out just fine. cooked a lot faster than I'd planned for, so was a little dry, but everyone lived to tell the tale. thanks AskMe!
posted by jerome powell buys his sweatbands in bulk only at 9:34 PM on November 26, 2022

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