Christmas Day is already over for 2021 and it is obvious that that you’ve been left with leftovers of the big fowl, turkey.
But how long can the leftovers be kept and safe for consumption?
Generally, cold, cooked turkey meat will be kept in the fridge for up to four days but absolute discretion is needed.
You need to be extra careful if you plan on warming your turkey up – never reheat the leftovers more than once, as this can provide the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and produce toxins.
Although heating the meat above 75°C for a second or third time will kill the bacteria, it won’t destroy the toxins.
If you are eating the leftovers cold, you should take only what you need from the fridge – as leaving the turkey at room temperature for prolonged periods of time can also encourage bacteria to grow.
There’s no limit on how long you can freeze turkey for, although the Food Standards Agency recommends you use it within 3-6 months. After this time, it will still be safe to eat, but there may be a deterioration in quality.
If you previously defrosted the turkey and then cooked it, it's fine to refreeze the cooked leftovers once – although the NHS advises that raw meat which has been defrosted should never be refrozen.
You should freeze cooked turkey leftovers as soon as possible after eating – as the fresher the meat is when it goes into the freezer, the fresher it will be when you take it out.
First, however, the turkey has to be completely cool. It is vital when refrigerating cooked meats that they have cooled to 21°C within two hours of cooking to prevent bacteria growth.
You can cool it down in the fridge before freezing it, but the meat should be cooled before doing this, so the fridge temperature doesn’t rise and compromise the safety of other food.