How to Properly Freeze Wild Turkey Meat?

Are you the kind of cook who enjoys a good bird roast without the excuse of a holiday?

With numerous recipes featuring domestic and supermarket turkey, you can cook and serve it any time and in any style you prefer.

How about the wild, free-range version of this delicious meat? 

Maybe a neighbor or friend brought back some wild turkey meat from a recent hunting trip (all legal of course).  

More likely, you purchased a free-range wild turkey from a specialized farm near you.

This throws up various questions when you haven’t cooked with the wild version yet.

Questions like:

Can you freeze wild turkey meat? 

Yes, you can freeze any type of meat, but you need to clean and prepare the meat like any other meat. 

You do this to prevent food contamination, spoilage, or both.

We bring another detailed guide that shows you how to handle this meat, store it and ensure its proper handling.

But before that, it’s good to know the subtle differences between farm-raised commercial turkeys and the birds living off the land.


What Is Wild Turkey Meat and How Does It Taste?

The wild turkey is lean meat as the bird has to forage for food. The breast can dry out after being overcooked. The wings, thighs, and legs tend to be denser with thick muscle and connective tissue because of the constant movement of the bird. These require long hours of cooking to become tender.

Domestic turkey, on the other hand, is flaccid and juicer with more fat because of the feeding habits of the breeders. 

While wild turkey had similar white breast meat and darker leg and thigh meat, the fat content differs.

Coming to the taste of the meat, your thunder chicken will remind you of either the dark meat from supermarket turkey or the flavors of beef. This depends on how you cook it.

And yet;

Wild game is not as popular as store-bought meat with home cooks

They are unsure how to cook it. 

If you think cooking wild turkey is not much different from cooking its obese domesticated cousin, you will be surprised that you cannot. This holds true even accounting for the various species, their home region, and their diet.

If you want to enjoy a wild turkey dish, don’t put it on the grill or baking tray in the oven (air fryer) and forget about it.

The results will be unsatisfactory and you’ll prefer expensive pieces of sirloin or lamb leg for a weekend or special meal. 

This is the reason why last year’s game is still lying at the back of the freezer, showing signs of freezer burn and covered in frost.

And why that old and dehydrated meat finally gets dumped into the trash can.

Although the meat is flavorsome you need to cook it right.

You have to prep wild meat and cook it using slightly different techniques. 

Wild turkey is usually marinated or brined and slow-cooked to help soften the lean meat.

But the cleaning and storage aspects remain the same for both kinds of turkey.


How to Prepare Wild Turkey Meat For Storage?

Whether you properly prepare the bird to be frozen or cooked can affect the meal being dry and hard or tender and delicious.  

First off, clean the bird well. 

Step 1: Hang the bird by its neck in a cold location for 3 to 6 days. It should be at your chest level with its legs apart at a temperature between 35-45 F. this allows the bird to age the meat to become tender.

Step 2: Remember to remove its beard and fan, and pluck the feathers. Cut the wings at the elbow joint. Slice off the legs at the knee joint next. 

Step 3: Now firmly hold the skin at the tail end of the bird and pull it down towards the head, the way you remove a shirt. When the skin reaches the neck area, slice off the neck. 

The skin will come off with the head and neck.

Step 4: Slice the bird and remove the entrails, crop, and internal organs by scooping it up. Rinse these cavities with water to clean them up. Don’t forget to pat dry to prevent bacterial growth.

Step 5: To clean up the gizzard, add lukewarm water to a large bowl. Cut open the gizzard and wash away the grit and dispose of it in the ground or garden and not your drains as they will get clogged.

Next, remove the silver skin with a filet knife and cut the red meat for storage. You can freeze the gizzard for an hour as it will help to trim the bird.

Step 6: Cut off the connecting arteries to use the heart as meat. You can save the neck to make a broth or braise it with some gravy.

The next step is optional as you can directly pack the bird dry, either whole or the breasts and other meat separately.

Step 7: Once the bird has aged, keep the turkey overnight in a brine – cold water with some salt added in. If you’re interested in freezing the bird breast alone, keep the soaked meat in the refrigerator for a day.

Your bird is now ready to be frozen for future use or the roasting pit.


How to Freeze Wild Turkey Meat

If you soak the bird in salted water, remove and rinse it well. Throw away the brine water.

 

Pat the whole turkey or breast meat dry before you pack it. Make sure you have enough space in the freezer to store it. If not, chop the breast, drumstick, thighs, and giblets.

Final step: Place the whole turkey in a freezer-safe bag that does not tear easily. Squeeze out all the air to prevent ice crystals and freezer burn. Seal tightly and preferably vacuum seal it.

Cover the meat bag with another bag. Some recommend wrapping the raw meat in butcher paper or thick foil before enclosing it in plastic.

Don’t forget to label the bag and keep it stored at 0°F.  Place the packed meat at the back of your freezer for 1 to 2 years. (Theoretically speaking, you can preserve this frozen meat indefinitely).

Tip: Use it within a year to enjoy the best of flavors and texture.


How To Freeze Cooked Wild Turkey

Storing cooked wild turkey in the freezer follows similar steps except for the time taken to cool the dish. You can pack the cooked turkey into freezer bags and store stuffing and liquids in a different container. 

Let the dish cool first. You can place it in the fridge to quicken this process.

Are you freezing the roasted or seared bird or its parts like the breast, thighs, or wings?

Simply double-wrap it in freezer-safe bags or a container and tightly close the lid or seal the bag. Don’t forget to pack the stuffing separately.

Flour-based gravy or sauces can be poured into the turkey bags before freezing. Avoid freezing milk or cheese-based gravy or sauces.

Label the bag or container, store at 0°F, and use within 4 to 6 months.

Tip: If you have a big bird or a big batch of meat, debone it, slice it up and store it in smaller quantities. This allows you to defrost only the amount you need while the rest remains frozen.

You may also like: Can You Freeze Smoked Salmon? 2023’s Guide on How to Do It.


Can You Freeze Raw or Cooked Turkey Stored in The Fridge? 

Sometimes, you place the raw meat or cooked dish in the fridge when you lack time, hoping to get back to it later. 

Yes, you can freeze the turkey meat chilling in the fridge or cooler provided it is not more than 2 to 4 days old. 

Quick Note: The freezing times we have mentioned for both raw and cooked wild turkey meat are based on the USDA guidelines. 

You can use it sooner to enjoy better quality meat or later provided it hasn’t suffered from freezer burn or turning rancid.


How to Thaw Frozen Raw or Cooked Wild Turkey Meat

Whenever you want to cook raw meat or reuse the cooked meat, take a bag out from the freezer to thaw.  You have a couple of ways to do this.

  • Place the meat in the fridge to thaw overnight. 
  • Place the meat in a bowl of cold water replacing the water every 30 minutes. One pound of meat will roughly take 4 hours to thaw.
  • Place the meat in the microwave and thaw with the defrost option.

Tip: Avoid refreezing the thawed raw meat or the cooked dish. Store it in the fridge and use it within a couple of days.

 

Related: If you want to know how to freeze soda, here is the answer How Long Does It Take Soda to Freeze?


How long can you store thawed turkey meat in the fridge?

Thawing your turkey in the fridge is the best way to retain flavor and texture in your frozen food.

Raw and thawed meat should be cooked or discarded within 1-2 days.  Use your cooked turkey meat thawed in the fridge within 1-3 days.


Final Thoughts

You can freeze wild turkey and meat from any part whether it is fresh or cooked. 

You can freeze raw wild turkey in salted water (brine) to preserve the moisture or dry freeze it in sealed containers.

Cooked wild turkey can be stored in the freezer in its liquid, while you should store stuffing and toppings in separate containers –

Store thawed turkey meat in the fridge for 1 to 3 days before discarding it. 

We do hope this guide to freezing wild turkey has cleared all your doubts and confusion on how to store it for longer.

If you have other questions related to wild turkey, read on for effective solutions


Frequently Asked Questions

Is raw meat safe to consume once frozen?

Raw meat is safe to consume when frozen as the growth of bacteria is hampered. But raw meat should be thawed and cooked to the right temperature to avoid food poisoning and infections.

Can you eat wild turkey with freezer burn?

While eating spoiled turkey meat is never a good idea, you can consume meat with signs of freezer burn.

As long it does smell rancid or show signs of spoiling. You may need to cook it for longer to tenderize the dried meat and spice it up to make up for the loss of texture and flavor. 

Is it safe to eat frozen turkey stuffing?

Frozen stuffing remains flavorsome and safe to consume for up to a month.

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