Can you freeze cooked turkey? How long Christmas leftovers can go in the freezer - and how to freeze safely

Aim to reduce your food waste this festive season by correctly keeping your Christmas leftovers

If there’s one thing that everyone looks forward to more than the grand Christmas dinner - it’s tucking into the leftovers.

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), there are an estimated 2.4 million cases of food poisoning in the UK each year, so it’s important that you know how to cook and keep your food properly.

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This is what you need to know about freezing your leftover turkey - as well as other classic Christmas foods.

Can I freeze cooked turkey?

It’s normal to have lots of leftovers from the Christmas day feast, including turkey - but that doesn’t mean you have to throw what’s left away. Turkey actually keeps very well in the freezer.

The FSA says: “You can freeze cooked turkey, other cooked meat and meals made from cooked and frozen meat.

“It will be safe to eat for a long time, but you may see a deterioration in quality after three to six months.”

Do you know how to properly store turkey leftovers? (Photo: Shutterstock)

After defrosting cooked turkey meat, you should eat the leftovers within 24 hours.

The NHS says: “Never refreeze raw meat (including poultry) or fish that has been defrosted.

“You can cook frozen meat and fish once defrosted, and then refreeze them. You can refreeze cooked meat and fish once, as long as they have been cooled before going into the freeze.

“If in doubt, do not refreeze.”

What other Christmas foods can you freeze?

You might be surprised to find out there are loads of your holiday leftovers that will keep well in the freezer.

Classic Christmas dinner vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips and Brussels sprouts that have been cooked can all be frozen.

If you have leftover vegetables that weren’t cooked, you can blanch items like carrots, parsnips and Brussels sprouts in boiling water for a few minutes before placing them in ice water, cooled and then frozen.

Brussels sprouts can be divisive at Christmas - but just because they haven’t been eaten doesn’t mean you have to throw them away (Photo: Shutterstock)

Leftover Christmas pudding doesn’t have to go to waste - wrap your Christmas pudding in two layers of either plastic wrap or foil, and you can freeze for up to a year.

Other items that are suitable for freezing includes:

  • Yoghurt
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Eggs, including boiled eggs
  • Avocado
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Tomatoes
  • Wine
  • Bread

If you’re not sure if something can be frozen, check out the Love Food Hate Waste site, which has a handy A-Z list of food items and if you can freeze them.

When freezing your leftovers, it’s recommended that you portion them out first so that you can easily defrost just what you need, rather than defrosting everything and then having to throw away what you haven’t managed to use.

What’s the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use-by’ dates?

When buying food, you’ll notice that on the packaging there will be either a note that says “best before” and/or “use-by” and then a date.

The best before date is about quality - the food is still safe to eat after this date, but it is no longer at its highest quality.

The use-by date is about safety, the FSA says. Food should not be eaten, cooked or frozen after the use-by date as it could be unsafe.

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