How To Store Leftover Turkey Or Use The Leftovers - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures How To Store Leftover Turkey Or Use The Leftovers
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How To Store Leftover Turkey Or Use The Leftovers

A “turkey dinner sandwich” (photo © J. Java | Fotolia).


If you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner, the odds are that you’re going to have lots of leftovers.

Some of them are easy to deal with: Just store cranberry sauce, potatoes and gravy in airtight containers and use them up within the week.

But what about the bird?

The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (1.800.535.4555) wants you to have these tips for storing turkey leftovers.

  • Store leftover turkey properly to prevent food poisoning. From the time you take the turkey out of the oven, you have two hours to serve it, eat it, and then refrigerate or freeze the leftovers—the turkey, stuffing and gravy.
  • Why just two hours? Because bacteria that can cause food poisoning can multiply to dangerous levels on perishable food left longer than two hours at room temperature.
  • Large quantities of turkey should be deboned, divided into smaller portions and stored in several small or shallow covered containers. That’s because food in small amounts will get cold more quickly.

  • Leftover turkey will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. For longer storage, package turkey in freezer paper or heavy-duty aluminum foil and freeze. Proper wrapping will prevent “freezer burn.”
  • Frozen cooked turkey should be used within 4-6 months.

    Our two favorite uses are a “turkey dinner sandwich”—with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce—and a turkey BLT with cranberry mayonnaise (mix cranberry sauce into mayo). For a bit more work, we enjoy a turkey pot pie.

    Frozen cooked turkey can be added to casseroles, soups, pastas and other cooked dishes.

    Here’s a recipe from De Cecco pasta, which uses its angel hair nests to create a special dish with either refrigerated or frozen-and-thawed cooked turkey. If you can’t find angel hair nests, you can use regular angel hair, linguine or spaghetti and use tongs to create nest-like shapes.

    Prep time is 25 minutes; total time is 45 minutes.



    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1-2 packages of De Cecco Angel Hair Nests
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1-1.5 cups cooked, skinless turkey breast
  • 5 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped green onions, divided
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    Angel hair pasta nests (photo © De Cecco).

    1. CUT cooked, skinless turkey into bite-size pieces or shreds; set aside.

    2. ADD 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Reduce heat to medium, and add leeks. Cook 7 minutes or until tender-crisp, stirring frequently. Add water, 1/2 cup green onions and wine; cook, covered, 10 minutes or until leeks are soft. Transfer mixture to a blender. Cover and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Cover and keep warm.

    3. BRING a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in 3 batches, gently lower pasta into boiling water. Cook 6 minutes or until al dente. Carefully remove pasta with a large slotted spoon, gently shaking to remove excess liquid. Repeat procedure with remaining pasta.

    4. ARRANGE cooked pasta nests on a large rimmed platter. Spoon sauce evenly over each nest. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese, and top with turkey. Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup green onions.

    Founded in 1886 by the De Cecco brothers in the Abruzzo region of central Italy, De Cecco makes 160 pasta varieties using only the heart of durum wheat to produce premium semolina. The water mixed with the flour is from a mountain spring. The semolina dough is extruded through bronze dies and the pasta is dried very slowly at low temperature.

    The company, which is the world’s third largest manufacturer of pasta, was recently inducted to the Italian Trade Commission’s Hall of Fame. Find more recipes at


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