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Can you freeze smoked turkey after cooking it?

Freezing cooked smoked turkey can extend its shelf life for several months. However, there are some important steps to follow when freezing cooked smoked turkey to maintain quality and prevent food safety issues.

Should You Freeze Cooked Smoked Turkey?

Smoking imparts flavor into the turkey through the slow infusion of wood smoke. This flavor can become diluted or lost when frozen. However, for food safety reasons, cooked turkey should not be left at room temperature or refrigerated for more than 3-4 days. Freezing is the best option for longer term storage.

If you have leftovers that won’t get eaten within 3-4 days, freezing is recommended over throwing the turkey away. With proper freezing techniques, you can preserve decent quality and flavor.

How to Freeze Cooked Smoked Turkey

Follow these steps for freezing cooked smoked turkey:

1. Allow turkey to cool completely

Turkey needs to cool to room temperature before freezing, otherwise ice crystals will form and damage the cell structure. Leave the turkey sitting out until no longer warm to the touch, about 2 hours after cooking.

2. Package in airtight containers

Divide turkey into meal-sized portions in freezer bags, plastic containers, or aluminum foil. Squeeze out excess air and seal the packages airtight. This prevents freezer burn.

3. Label packages

Include contents, quantity, and freeze date. This lets you keep track of how long items have been frozen.

4. Freeze promptly

Freeze turkey within 1-2 hours of packaging. Do not leave sitting in the fridge more than a couple hours.

5. Maintain 0°F freezer temperature

Set your freezer to 0°F or below. Consistent freezing temps maintain food quality and safety.

How Long Does Frozen Smoked Turkey Last?

Properly frozen cooked smoked turkey lasts for 3-4 months in the freezer before quality begins to decline. Turkey that is handled improperly, such as left too long at room temperature before freezing, may only last 1-2 months.

For optimal quality, it’s best to eat frozen smoked turkey within 2 months. Freeze in meal-size portions to avoid repeated thawing.

Thawing Safely

Never thaw smoked turkey on the counter or in hot water. Use one of these safe methods:

  • Refrigerator thawing: Allow 1 day for every 4-5 lbs
  • Cold water thawing: Submerge sealed package in cold water, change water every 30 mins
  • Microwave: Use the defrost setting if available, otherwise microwave at 50% power

Cook thawed turkey immediately until piping hot. Do not refreeze after thawing.

Maintaining Quality in Frozen Turkey

Smoking imparts delicate flavors that can degrade over time in the freezer. To best maintain smoked turkey quality:

  • Use turkey within 2 months
  • Freeze in airtight packaging
  • Prevent freezer burn by minimizing exposure to air
  • Freeze in smaller portions to reduce thawing time

Some loss of moisture is inevitable after freezing and thawing smoked turkey. Using the thawed turkey in soups, casseroles and other dishes can offset this texture change.

Food Safety Concerns

To prevent foodborne illness from improperly handled smoked turkey:

  • Rapidly cool turkey within 2 hours after cooking
  • Package in clean, airtight containers
  • Freeze at 0°F within 1-2 hours of packaging
  • Thaw using refrigerator, cold water, or microwave methods
  • Avoid room temperature thawing
  • Cook thawed turkey immediately to 165°F

Discard any turkey that smells bad or appears slimy after thawing. Follow USDA recommendations for freezer storage times.


Freezing is an acceptable way to preserve cooked smoked turkey for several months. Take steps to prevent freezer burn and maximize quality. Thaw turkey safely in the refrigerator, cold water or microwave. Cook thawed smoked turkey to 165°F until piping hot before serving. With proper handling, freezing can extend the shelf life of cherished smoked turkey leftovers.