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How Long Can You Store a Thawed Turkey?

After thawing a frozen turkey, can it be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days before cooking it?

Yes or no. Your goal is to have the turkey completely thawed not more than a day before you cook it. It may not be a hard-and-fast rule, but it's a useful goal.

As mentioned elsewhere, if this is a Thanksgiving turkey (and for those readers who are not familiar with US customs, Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday of November), you want it completely thawed sometime Wednesday. So to thaw a 16- to 20-pound turkey in the refrigerator, you would move it from the freezer to the refrigerator on the Sunday before Thanksgiving (Monday for a 12- to 15-pound bird; Tuesday for a 8 to 10 pounder).

You might be fine if your turkey is thawed a few days ahead, but there is no good way of knowing how much time has elapsed since your turkey was killed, how much of that time the bird spent in transit, how many times it started to thaw and was refrozen, etc., etc. The goal, therefore, is to have it spend as little time thawed as possible, since you really don't know how fresh it is. If the sell by/use by date is still in the future, you should certainly be all right.

Obviously if the turkey smells bad and shows signs of spoilage when you get ready to cook it, it was thawed for too many days, and you'll have to move to Plan B and serve Thanksgiving pancakes.

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