One of the treats that comes from enjoying a turkey dinner is eating the leftovers the next day. If you also make turkey soup with the bones, you're getting another gastronomic delight. Its unique flavor fills the body with protein and vitamins and warms the soul as only homemade soup can. Once you know the facts about storing and freezing turkey soup, you can savor every last drop and stay safe too.
Refrigerating Turkey Soup
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for food safety, has advice on storing cooked turkey in the refrigerator. Turkey and other cooked food can safely be left out of the refrigerator for no longer than two hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit where the food is held, whether indoors without air conditioning or outside, the safe window decreases to one hour.
After that, it should go into the refrigerator pronto. Turkey soup, like other soups and stews with or without meat, can safely be refrigerated for three or four days. After that, it may harbor high enough levels of bacteria to make you sick. Bacteria is present everywhere, including in the air and in food. In small amounts, it's harmless. However, with each passing day, bacteria can multiply and reach a dangerous level.
Considerations for Cooling
The FDA no longer advises cooling hot food on the counter before putting it in the refrigerator. Formerly, putting very hot food in the cold refrigerator affected the temperature of all the other refrigerated food. Today's refrigerators can safely cool hot food without affecting the other food around it, so food can be refrigerated while it's still hot.
If you've cooked a large pot of soup, though, transfer it into smaller containers before refrigerating it. Small containers cool more quickly than large ones, so your soup will cool faster. You also don't have to deal with the big, unwieldy soup pot taking up space.
Freezing Turkey Soup
The only downside to whipping up a big pot of savory turkey soup is that you feel obligated to eat it day after day after day so it isn't wasted. Soon, your family is wailing about eating turkey soup again. You can try changing it up with artisan bread one day and a leafy green salad the next, but you know and they know that it's still the turkey soup. That's a sad fate to befall such a wondrous, wholesome food.
Luckily, freezing turkey soup is a cinch. With your soup divided into smaller containers, you can pop one or two of them into the freezer for longer storage. Frozen soup will keep in the freezer for two or three months. Give everyone a break and come back to it a month from now, when they're more likely to exclaim, "Mmmm! It's your yummy turkey soup!"
Refrigerating Cooked Turkey
If you've roasted a turkey and are making turkey soup, chances are you have cooked turkey left over too. Cooked turkey will keep safely refrigerated for three to four days; ditto for other cooked poultry like chicken.
The catch is, though, if you also have leftover gravy, it can spoil within two days. So, eat your turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy meal the second day just to be safe. Transfer any cooked turkey you still have refrigerated into the freezer and expect accolades when you unveil it next month or months from now. Cooked turkey will keep in the freezer for four to six months.
A Note About Raw Turkey
Turkey that's uncooked is in its most vulnerable state. Raw turkey should be refrigerated only one or two days before cooking it. If you're not going to use it within that time, freeze it to be safe.
How long raw turkey keeps when frozen:
- Whole turkey: one year
- Turkey pieces: nine months
- Giblets: three to four months