How to know if turkey is spoiled

In this brief article, we will have a look at different ways to tell spoiled turkey from fresh turkey. We will also highlight the risk of consuming turkey that has gone bad, as well as discuss some of the ways you can store turkey for the longest possible shelf life.

How to know if turkey is spoiled?

The easiest way to determine whether it is safe for consumption is to smell it. Fresh turkey doesn’t really smell like anything, so a sour and strong smell will alert you to it going bad.The shelf life of turkey can range anywhere from a couple of days to a few months. 

How to tell when turkey has spoiled

Spoiled turkey is not very difficult to tell apart from fresh turkey since there are a few ways to distinguish between the two. Here are a few things to look for:

  1. Smell

Fresh turkey doesn’t have a distinct scent. Smell your turkey to check if it smells sour or funky. Sulfuric or ammonia-like smells are a red flag too. If that is the case, your turkey might have gone bad. 

  1. Appearance and color

Fresh raw turkey has a pink color with lavender and blue undertones. If the color turns red, brown, or green, it might be time to throw your turkey out. Grey patches and discolored areas can be a telltale sign of rot as well. Moreover, turkey that has gone bad will have a slimy and sticky texture, so keep an eye out for that.

  1. Expiration date

When buying a frozen or packaged turkey, check the packaging for a label with the “best by” or “use before” date, as it is a clear indicator of the turkey’s shelf life. Keep in mind however, that if the packaging is punctured, torn, or otherwise damaged, your turkey might go bad a lot quicker than the date on the label might suggest.

How to store your turkey for the longest possible shelf life

Nobody wants spoiled turkey. So, we are gonna look at a few ways to get your turkey to last longer. Here are some things you can do.

  1. Refrigeration

Be it raw turkey or your thanksgiving dinner, sticking it in the fridge can improve its shelf life. Be sure to put it in the meat drawer or the bottom shelf, so it doesn’t end up putting its scent in other items you might have in the fridge. Moreover, leftovers from cooked turkey should be refrigerated within the hour for the best preservation.

  1. Freezing

If you need to store your turkey for a long time, it is best to freeze it as the turkey can last up to six months in the freezer. If you choose to freeze leftovers, take the meat off the bone before you freeze it. Moreover, try to remove as much moisture and air as you can from the container you store your turkey in while frozen.

Moreover, consider buying flash frozen turkey as it can last very long, up to three years. Moreover, flash freezing retains most of the original flavor and texture of the turkey.

How to store turkey?

You should store turkey in the refrigerator either covered tightly in a plastic wrap or in an airtight container. The moisture on the turkey can invite uninvited bacteria to grow on the surface. 

If you want to store cooked turkey, then make sure that you keep that too in airtight containers and use the best by date. Cooked turkey can last a few days longer in the fridge as compared to the uncooked raw turkey.

Dangers of consuming spoiled turkey

If consumed, spoiled turkey can potentially be seriously dangerous to your health, since it is meat and meat can harbor a wide variety of bacteria and pathogens especially Clostridium perfringens which is the major pathogen in food poisoning from turkey.

Food poisoning 

Food poisoning from turkey can make you very sick, with symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, and headaches.

Thoroughly clean your utensils 

Therefore, always inspect your turkey before using it, never use utensils that have touched raw turkey without a thorough cleaning, and keep drippings from raw turkey away from everything else in your kitchen. When in doubt, throw it out.

Other FAQs about Turkey that you may be interested in.

Can I cook 2 turkeys at the same time?

Can I deep fry a turkey at 250 degrees?

How long can you eat Christmas turkey?


In this brief article, we have had a look at different ways to tell spoiled turkey from fresh turkey. We have also highlighted the risk of consuming turkey that has gone bad, as well as discussed some of the ways you can store turkey for the longest possible shelf life.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.