Can You Freeze Cooked Turkey Breast? [Proper Way To Do It]

It is the official bird of the United States and it is the perfect ingredient for sandwiches, stews, casseroles, burgers, and of course, your Thanksgiving Day meal. Over 7 billion pounds of  turkey is eaten each year and none of this palatable protein source should go to waste!

Food waste is fowl, so can you freeze cooked turkey breast? We have flocked together the details!

Freezer storage is an exemplary way to extend the shelf life of your food. However, the preparation of the meat will determine how long the products can be safely stored. Cooked turkey breast is safe for up to four months whereas ground turkey products, like cooked turkey burgers and meatballs, will only span two to three.

Lastly, deli turkey meat will only last one to two months due to the additives and processing that it undergoes.

Nonetheless, vacuum sealing is the optimal storage method of storage for any type of meat. Simply divide out your portions and seal! Conversely, you can also store these products in freezer safe ziplock bags.

Just make sure that when storing cooked turkey burgers that you individually wrap them in wax paper.

Similarly, slices of deli turkey meat should layered in between pieces of parchment paper. Finally, all methods should be followed by a secondary layer of aluminum foil to help block out any light, which could cause an earlier expiration of the meat. 

Guidelines To Freeze Cooked Turkey — Breast, Burgers & Deli Meat

Freezer Storage

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooked turkey can be safely kept in freezer storage for four months. For those who prepare smoked turkey breast, this will actually extend the freezer life to six months.

However, the more the meat is processed and the greater the surface area that can be impacted by light, oxygen and moisture, the less time that it will stay safe to consume. 

What does this mean? Cooked turkey burgers, which are made with ground turkey meat, will only span two to three months and sliced deli turkey will only span one to two months. 

Conversely, stuffed turkey breast can be safely store for three months.

This is assuming that the meat is packaged well, frozen prior to the “Best By” date and kept at a consistent zero degrees Fahrenheit.

Moreover, always freeze food products on open shelves and ensure that the freezer vent and fan are never obstructed. This will facilitate a rapid freeze, and therefore, a longer lasting item.

Fridge Storage

Conversely, refrigerator storage will remain about the same — three to four days for both cooked turkey breast and ground turkey products.

Deli meat will last just slightly longer, between three to five days once opened and two weeks prior to breaking the seal. 

How To Freeze Cooked Turkey Breast

Step 1: Portion Out The Meat

First and foremost, allow your turkey breast to fully cool after cooking. This is imperative for maintaining the original characteristics of the cooked bird.

This can be done on the counter at room temperature, as long as the time does not surpass two hours. 

If the meat is still not cool at this point, then transfer it to the fridge to finish the cooling process.

Next, cut up your meat into suitable portions. The best practice is to think ahead about what you intend to do with the meat. 

Will you be serving slices of turkey breast as your main course or are you throwing the leftover turkey into a casserole or stew? 

Since a whole turkey breast weighs an average of six to seven pounds, this can be a lot of meat.

In order to cut back on food waste, divide out individual servings or the amounts you intend to serve when you thaw this product. Moreover, remove all fat, skin and bones. 

If you will be using it in dishes like pasta or chili, also take the initiative to cut it into bite sized chunks to save yourself time later. This will also expedite the freeze time. 

Step 2: Flash Freeze The Cooked Turkey Breast

Not only does flash freezing prevent the sections of turkey from sticking together while in extreme temperatures, but it helps to diminish moisture loss.

Thus, lay a piece of wax paper down in a baking tray and lay out your sections of cooked turkey breast. 

Cooked Turkey Breast

Place the tray on an empty freezer shelf and allow the dish to set for a few hours. Once frozen, you will be ready to package the turkey!

Step 3: Package The Cooked Turkey Breast

Method 1: Vacuum Seal

This is the optimal method for freezer storage. Using a FoodSaver machine (or something similar), place the sliced turkey breast in the plastic and vacuum seal the meat.

This is an amazing tool for extracting oxygen and moisture. By doing this, it will prevent freezer burn and help to inhibit bacteria growth.

Then, apply a second tight layer of heavy duty aluminum foil around the packaging.

This will serve to block out any light from the regular opening and closing of the freezer door. Lastly, label the package with the date and freeze. 

Method 2: Freezer Safe Ziplock Bags

If you do not have access to a vacuum seal machine, a freezer safe ziplock bag can be a fantastic alternative.

Make sure to remove as much air as possible and seal. Then, fold over any excess plastic and apply a second layer of aluminum foil over top of the bag.

Finally, label with the initial date of freezing and place the turkey back in the freezer.

How To Freeze Cooked Turkey Burgers

Step 1: Allow The Turkey Burgers To FULLY Cool 

As detailed in Step 1 of the “How To Freeze Cooked Turkey Breast” section, wait for your burgers to fully cool before packaging and freezing.

Again, when cooling at room temperature, make sure that the time frame is less than two hours.

Step 2: Package The Cooked Turkey Burgers To Freeze

First, wrap the turkey burger in a tight layer of plastic freezer wrap. Follow this with a tight layer of aluminum foil.

Finally, place the individually packaged burgers into a freezer safe ziplock bag. Remove as much air as possible, seal and freeze. 

Conversely, you can also vacuum seal individual turkey burger patties. This is ideal for small quantities, but a bit wasteful when packaging large amounts.

How To Freeze Turkey Meat From The Deli

In order to freeze deli turkey meat, you must first apply a layer of parchment paper to each side of every slice.

Make sure to create stacks of meat that you know will be used within three to four days following when you intend to thaw the meat. This will help to diminish food waste. 

Then, slide the deli meat into a freezer safe ziplock bag, squeezing out as much air as possible.

Finally, fold over the excess portion of the bag and wrap it in a tight layer of aluminum foil. Label the package and freeze.  

In contrast, you can also take your wax paper layered deli turkey meat and vacuum seal it for later use.

Dividing out reasonable portions is ideal with this method because you will have to thaw the entire container. Moreover, once thawed, you will not be able to freeze the cooked deli turkey breast again.

How To Thaw And Reheat Frozen, Previously Cooked Turkey Products

Defrosting Cooked Turkey Products

The best method for defrosting any frozen product is to place it in the refrigerator 24 hour prior to the intended cooking and consumption times.

Turkey deli meat is easy and will likely require less time to thaw, especially if frozen in smaller quantities. Conversely, larger quantities can take up to 48 hours to fully defrost. 

However, your next best choice is a cold water bath. This is ideal for those who find themselves in a rush. Place the sealed bags in a basin filled with cool water.

Replace the water every 30 minutes until the meat has fully defrosted. Finally, never thaw meat on the counter. This can lead to the growth of dangerous bacteria.

Reheating Cooked Turkey Breast And Burgers

Turkey is a lean bird. This means that maintaining moisture can be tricky, especially in the reheating process.

Thus, the microwave is NOT your friend. Instead, the best method for reheating sliced turkey breast is to use the oven. 

Place your turkey in a baking dish, adding both butter and either chicken or turkey broth.

Cover the container with heavy duty aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, checking regularly.

You also have the option of using the warming function on an instant pot to achieve a similar result. 

When reheating cooked turkey burgers, simply take a cast iron skillet and add a dash of olive oil.

Then, cook your burgers over low to medium heat. Cover the pan with aluminum foil to lock in the moisture. The total cook time should only take a few minutes! 

What Not To Do

While a George Foreman Grill, a Ninja Foodi and an air fryer are fantastic tools for cooking raw turkey burgers, using them a second time will further remove any fat, making the meat drier than when you first cooked it.

Additionally, slow cookers are also not an ideal choice for reheating cooked turkey breast and burgers. The time it would take to warm the food makes it an illogical choice.

Final Thoughts

If you are making cooked turkey breast or burgers with the intent to freeze, one of the best tips to success is to avoid adding too much salt.

While this is lean meat, salt can still have negative effects when it comes in contact with fat.

This can cause the meat to spoil more rapidly. Thankfully, most other seasonings, like onion, pepper and garlic, will fare fine is cold storage.

Additionally, always look for changes in color, texture and smell before consuming any frozen product.

If frozen prior to the “Best By” date, which in the case of cooked turkey products would be three to four days after baking or grilling, spoilage is unlikely. However, it is always best to err on the side of caution.

Lastly, for those who love all types of poultry in their diet, the aforementioned freezing guidelines will also apply to other domestic and wild fowl. 

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