Can You Refreeze a Thawed Turkey? (2 Certain Methods to Use)

Jayden Lawson
Published by Jayden Lawson
Last Updated On: December 5, 2023

Turkey has been a staple in my culinary repertoire for over a decade. Through years of trial and error, I've encountered the question of whether it's safe to refreeze a thawed turkey.

Eager to find a definitive answer, I delved into extensive research, consulting reputable sources like the USDA.

Combining my personal experience with the official guidelines, I've compiled the best practices and considerations to ensure the utmost safety and quality of your turkey, as well as some valuable tips and insights along the way.

Quick Summary

  • You can safely refreeze turkey if you thaw it in the fridge.
  • If you had turkey thawed in the microwave or cold water, it’s not safe to refreeze, and you can get food poisoning.
  • You should take several steps to refreeze a partially-thawed or fully-thawed bird.

Can You Refreeze a Thawed Turkey?

refreezing a thawed turkey

Yes, you can refreeze a thawed turkey. This goes for a completely thawed turkey, a partially thawed turkey, and a whole turkey.

However, you can only refreeze a cooked or raw turkey if you thaw it in the refrigerator [1]. If you use other methods, refreezing the bird’s not completely safe.

You need to refreeze the turkey within two days of thawing. Keep in mind refrozen turkey will lose some moisture, and you’ll have a drier texture.

You can add gravy or other condiments to improve the turkey flavor.

Also, another condition for refreezing cooked or uncooked turkey is that it hasn’t spent over two hours at room temperature.

If this is the case, not only you shouldn’t refreeze meat, you shouldn’t eat it either.

“Turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature during "the big thaw." While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely. However, as soon as it begins to thaw, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again.”

- U.S. Department of Agriculture

Turkey Thawing Methods and Their Impact on Refreezing

Turkey Thawing Methods on a plate

The possibility of refreezing a thawed turkey hinges on the specific thawing method you use.

1. In the Fridge

This is the best and safest way to defrost a turkey.

It’s the only thawing method that lets you refreeze the bird because the turkey has been kept at a safe temperature during the entire defrosting period [2].

There’s little to no risk of bacteria spreading.

To defrost a turkey in the fridge, you should place it in a container that is wide enough to catch juices as the meat thaws and leave it in the fridge.

That’s all you need to do.

However, the main downside is that this method takes time. Turkey meat defrosts at a rate of five pounds per day, which means it takes several days to defrost a whole turkey.

2. Cold Water

Turkey under cold water

Another effective way to defrost a raw or cooked turkey is to submerge it in cold water.

It takes half an hour per pound of meat to thaw. You place the wrapped turkey in a container filled with cold water and change it every half hour to ensure it remains cold.

This method is faster than the fridge. However, it’s not as safe. There’s no guarantee that the frozen turkey will remain at a safe temperature during the entire thawing process.

This is why refreezing cooked and raw turkey after thawing in cold water is not recommended. You should immediately cook a thawed turkey if you opt for this method.

3. Microwave

Defrosting turkey in the microwave is the quickest method. However, it’s the riskiest.

You risk cooking parts of the meat and having frozen and cold spots throughout. This means you can’t refreeze turkey defrosted in the microwave.

This meat needs to be immediately cooked and eaten or thrown away.

Read More: How to Safely Defrost Meat in a Microwave

Guidelines for Safely Refreezing a Turkey

Inside of fridge

Here’s how to safely refreeze a turkey step-by-step:

  1. Thaw frozen turkey in the fridge - If there’s even a small chance you’ll be refreezing turkey, thaw it in the fridge. This is the safest method and produces evenly thawed turkey.
  2. Put turkey in freezer-safe packaging - If your cooked turkey meat has already been frozen once, put it in a freezer-safe package to refreeze. This prevents freezer burn, which can ruin the taste and texture of the cooked meat. You can wrap the turkey or put it in a freezer bag, making sure to squeeze out as much air as possible.
  3. Label the turkey - Put a label with the date of freezing it so you know when you should consume it.
  4. Refreeze straight away - Refreeze a partially thawed turkey or a fully thawed turkey as soon as you know you won’t cook it. The faster you refreeze, the safer the meat.
  5. Don’t open the freezer after placing the turkey in - Give the meat a few hours when freezing cooked turkey, and avoid opening the freezer during this time. This ensures the freezer temperature doesn’t rise and the freezing process is efficient.

Does Refreezing Turkey Impact the Flavor?

Person cutting a turkey

Yes, refreezing turkey impacts the flavor. If you thaw and refreeze cooked turkey, you’ll remove some of the meat’s moisture, so the turkey will be drier than after the first freezing.

Generally, the longer the turkey is left in the freezer, the worse it’ll taste.

It’ll also have an off texture and won’t look as appetizing as freshly cooked turkey that hasn’t been refrozen.

One way to improve the taste after freezing turkey is to use moisture, such as broth or gravy, when reheating.

Related Articles:


Why Is It Not Safe to Thaw a Turkey Overnight?

It’s not safe to thaw a turkey overnight because if you leave it at room temperature for hours, bacteria will develop. It’s only safe to thaw meat in the fridge overnight.

Can a Thawed Turkey Stay in the Fridge for Three Days?

Yes, a thawed turkey can stay in the fridge for three days. However, if you know you won’t cook raw meat in three days, refreeze turkey immediately.


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Jayden Lawson
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