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Handle leftover turkey safely


Debbie Johnson
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9183

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013

Story source:

Tammy Roberts, 660-679-4167

Related radio feature produced by Debbie Johnson. For downloadable broadcast-quality audio, contact Johnson at 573-882-9183.

BUTLER, Mo. – Leftover turkey can easily fit into lots of recipes. But if turkey isn’t handled properly, those leftover meals can quickly go from yummy to uneatable.

Never leave leftover turkey at room temperature for more than two hours, said Tammy Roberts, nutrition specialist for University of Missouri Extension.

“Within that time you should remove all the turkey from the bone and store it in shallow containers,” she said.

The reason? Small containers will let the turkey cool down quickly to a safe temperature. Also, don’t stack the containers, Roberts said. That will retain heat and slow the cooling process.

If you want to store the turkey for more than three days, turkey freezes nicely, she said. Frozen turkey can be stored for up to six months. Be sure to thaw frozen leftover turkey safely in the refrigerator and reheat it thoroughly.

You can be as elaborate or simple as you please with leftover turkey. Here are a couple of great recipe from Roberts:

Turkey and potatoes au gratin

  • 1 cup cooked turkey
  • 1 pound of frozen hash brown potatoes
  • 1 can of cream of broccoli soup
  • 1/2 cup of reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 1 cup of grated reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the ingredients except one-half cup of the cheddar cheese. Put the ingredients in a casserole dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 20 minutes.

Turkey chili

  • 2 teaspoon of cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup of chopped celery
  • 2 cups of cubed cooked turkey
  • 1 15-ounce can of white beans
  • 1 11-ounce can of white corn
  • 1 4-ounce can of chopped green chilies
  • 12 ounces of fat-free chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

Heat the cooking oil over medium and sauté the onions and celery. Add the cumin and chicken broth. Drain the beans and corn and add to the broth. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.