How to Store a Smoked Turkey

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Safe turkey storage practices are important in order to avoid food poisoning.
Safe turkey storage practices are important in order to avoid food poisoning. (Image: turkey image by Bobi from Fotolia.com)

With the advent of easy-to-use, grill-like home smokers, people can enjoy the taste of fresh smoked turkey without having to wait days for the smoking process. However, it doesn't matter whether a turkey has been smoked, deep-fried or baked traditionally in an oven: You have approximately two hours from cooking time (after a turkey has been served) to refrigerate and store leftover turkey. Otherwise, turkey left out at room temperature runs the risk of bacterial growth that can lead to food poisoning, which will quickly put a damper on your holiday meal.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic wrap
  • Turkey pan
  • Aluminum foil
  • Freezer storage bags

Cover your smoked turkey immediately with plastic wrap while you determine what your situation is. Determine how long it will be before you are going to serve the turkey. If it is longer than two hours, you should store your turkey in a refrigerator. According to the National Turkey Federation, uncooked turkeys can be refrigerated for one to two days or frozen for 12 months, and cooked turkeys are good for three to four days in the refrigerator and can store in the freezer for up to three to four months. Determine what your needs are and then act accordingly.

Cover the smoked turkey with aluminum foil and keep it in the pan if you are transporting the turkey. For example, if you need to drive a relatively short distance (not over an hour), transport the turkey in its cooking pan. Once you reach your destination either place the turkey in the oven at a low temperature setting, such as 250 degrees, or refrigerate it and reheat it later if you think it will be longer than two hours before serving time.

Remove the stuffing from the cavity of the turkey and store in a container if the turkey was originally smoked while it was stuffed. Stuffing that is left too long in the turkey's cavity can become contaminated with bacteria.

Refrigerate the smoked turkey if it will be longer than two hours from the time it was finished cooking until you serve it. The turkey can always be reheated briefly in the oven.

Store leftover smoked turkey after the meal in a plastic food container in your refrigerator. Leftovers can be stored safely in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Freeze leftover turkey that you do not intend to eat within three to four days in well-sealed plastic freezer storage bags for up to four months.

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