I am aware that cooked poultry leftovers kept in the fridge should be consumed within three days.
If I make a chicken noodle soup on the third day, for example, with the chicken simmering with stock and vegetables, will this extend the time the chicken stay in the fridge? Or should it go straight into the freezer?
If cooking the leftover poultry does extend its "shelf life," is it a process that can be safely repeated more than once?
You have some good questions! Thank you for reaching out to OSU Extension regarding safe food storage.
Temperature for poultry storage
Time and temperature are important for safety. A good rule is that life begins at 40º F and ends at 140º F; however, some bacteria produce spores that are heat resistant and cannot be killed by cooking. This means that the quicker you can cool your food and get it out of the "danger zone," the longer it will be safe to eat.
The recommended storage days are guidelines, but it depends on how long the food was left out at room temperature before refrigerating it and how cold your refrigerator is. If you cooled your turkey to refrigerator temperature within the 2-3 hour recommendation and then made soup from leftovers and cooled it quickly after you made it, it will be safe for a few more days in the refrigerator. If you didn't cool it quickly and left it on the stove for a few hours, it might not be safe.
Our food safety guidance for refrigerating whole, uncooked turkey and poultry are 1-2 days at 40º F. Poultry can be frozen for up to one year.
Tips for soup storage
This is my strategy for using poultry leftovers in soup:
- I personally cool my turkey leftovers quickly after dinner and put them in the refrigerator
- I make a big pot of turkey stock with the bones the next day. I cook the stock for many hours, then at the end of the cooking time, I stir in frozen bottles of ice to cool it quickly.
- When cooled, I put the stock into small containers and refrigerate them again, and I freeze the turkey meat and stock if I am not planning to use it right away.
- I always reheat my soup to 165º F before serving.
The quicker the soup was cooled and refrigerated, the longer it is safe. If you see any signs of spoilage, then do not consume.
Signs of spoilage
Common signs of spoilage to be aware of include the following:
- Slimy texture
- Color changes
If you have a question about meat, poultry, or egg products, call the United States Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline toll-free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or email them at [email protected]. The hotline offers services in both English and Spanish.