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Can You Freeze Thanksgiving Leftovers?

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By Kristin Henry-Dallager

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Thanksgiving dinner – the perfect meal. And the perfect leftovers! I mean, you’ve got leftover turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato, green beans, gravy, cranberry sauce, and pie! But, can you freeze Thanksgiving Leftovers and enjoy them later?

Can You Freeze Thanksgiving Leftovers?

Yes, you can freeze Thanksgiving leftovers for around three months. However, it will ultimately depend on the specific food. (Full List Below).

Do Thanksgiving Leftovers Freeze Well? Yes

Can You Refreeze Thanksgiving Leftovers? It Depends

How to Freeze Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving Leftovers Freeze It

Freezing Thanksgiving leftovers is a great way to make sure the amazingly delicious (and expensive) meal you created doesn’t go to waste! Who doesn’t love a delicious turkey sandwich, casserole, or stew?

Instructions (By Item)

It works best when you freeze each food separately, so we’ve listed links to each type of food below for your convenience. Don’t see what you need? Let us know – we’re adding more every year!

Instructions (Broadly Speaking)

You can follow the more generalized instructions below:

  1. Portion out food: Portion out all of the food that you’re going to be freezing into small, rigid containers. It’s best not to mix different foods, but keep them separate. However, some people like to freeze their leftovers together, considering each container as one meal to be reheated later. Ensure there isn’t much stacking or overlap – this will lead to condensation, which is the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.
  2. Allow it to cool: Allow the leftovers to cool. Introducing still-warm leftovers to your freezer will lead to condensation – which is very likely to lead to bacterial growth, as those are the conditions in which bacteria thrive.
  3. Seal tightly: Seal each freezer-safe container as tightly as possible, ideally making use of airtight containers to ensure that the food doesn’t have a chance of getting ice crystals on the surface, leading to rapid freezer burn and spoilage.
  4. Freeze: Freeze the food as close to the center of the freezer as possible. If you’re freezing multiple items, consider the most delicate item in the group, likely the vegetables, and treat that very gently to ensure that it doesn’t become damaged or crushed.

Freezer-Friendly Cookie Recipes

Try out one of these delicious recipes that are perfect for freezing:

3 Tips for Freezing Thanksgiving Leftovers

Now you know how to freeze them, here are our Top 3 Tips, which we strongly recommend following, when freezing Thanksgiving leftovers to have the best results:

Store Things Separately
Storing the same food in a container allows the food to freeze in a more even & predictable way (the veggies will likely get freezer-burned first, with the meat lasting the longest). Plus, it decreases your chances of accidentally ruining the food. Storing the same containers of food in the same place in your freezer (store the potatoes in one corner, the meat in another, etc) also makes everything easier to find.

Remove The Meat From The Bone
Boneless meat generally thaws more quickly than meat with bones, and it saves space in your freezer for other leftovers. Don’t freeze the entire cooked turkey whole.

Avoid Adding Sauces
Adding sauces, such as cranberry sauce or gravy, makes freezing more difficult. The liquid-based sauces will freeze more aggressively, leading to ice crystals forming throughout, which results in damaged or unappealing leftovers.

How Long Can You Freeze Thanksgiving Leftovers?

You can freeze Thanksgiving leftovers for around 3 to 4 months before they lose a lot of quality.

This will typically be in the water-heavy ingredients, such as vegetables and sauces, which become texturally damaged by freezer burn.

How Do You Defrost Thanksgiving Leftovers?

The best way to defrost Thanksgiving leftovers is to take out the portion size you need the night before and place it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw.

Once thawed, remove the lid from any containers, and microwave on medium, in thirty-second increments, until all the food is steaming hot throughout.

If it’s not yet in a microwave-safe container, be sure to transfer it first.

WARNING

Take extra care to ensure the meat is hot (heat all the way through) – that’s the place where there’s the greatest chance of food poisoning.

Can You Refreeze Thanksgiving?

This depends on what you’re refreezing. The one thing that you categorically cannot refreeze is meat – so you cannot thaw and refreeze Thanksgiving turkey, for instance.

You can safely thaw and refreeze vegetables as many times as you might need to (as long as they’ve been thawed to refrigerator temps and no higher). Best practice is to only thaw as much as you’ll eat.

WARNING

There is still an increased risk of foodborne pathogens if you refreeze partially thawed raw or blanched vegetables.

Do Thanksgiving Leftovers Freeze Well?

Yes, Thanksgiving leftovers generally freeze well. This is typically because the meal is simple, and any seasoning flavors that might be lost in the freezing process can be added back again when you reheat the food.

That said, some won’t freeze well at all. And some will freeze better (and longer) than others.

For example, turkey freezes well for about 4 months. Leftover mashed potatoes, on the other hand, do well longer than four months (up to six when done properly).

Tip

When you freeze leftovers, it’s best to consider each item separately.

See our list at the top of this post.

FAQs

How long do Thanksgiving leftovers last in the refrigerator?

This really depends on what you want to refrigerate – but the rule of thumb here is three to four days. Check out our links to individual foods at the top of this article for specifics on how to properly refrigerate and freeze each one.

Can gravy be frozen?

It sure can! Gravy can be frozen for up to 6 months. We’ve got full instructions here.

Can turkey broth be frozen?

Yes! Stored properly, turkey broth can stay good in the freezer for up to 4-6 months. If you want perfectly portioned sizes, use an ice cube tray.

Sources

We have verified the information on this page using the following resources:

Foodsafety.gov

Taste of Home

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