Food Preparation,  Food Safety

How Long Will A Turkey Breast Last In The Freezer?

Often during the holiday season it is a great time to pick up a bargain on the unsold festive turkey meat. Grocery stores will want to free up their selling space after the Thanksgiving or Christmas season and will sell their remaining stock for sometimes as much as 90% markdown.

Many of you will want to take advantage of these great offers, but may be hesitant due to not knowing how long the meat will last in your freezer.

Alternatively, you may have one of those bargains in your freezer from last year, and want to know if it is still safe to eat.

Well, this article will cover everything you need to know about how long it is safe to store your raw turkey breast in the freezer.

So how long will a turkey breast be safe to use after being stored in the freezer? Raw turkey breast that has been packaged well, and kept at a constant minimum temperature of 0oF, will last for up to 12 months without affecting the quality of the meat. It is, however, safe to freeze your turkey breast longer than 12 months, but the quality and taste will start to deteriorate the longer you keep it.

These are just rough guidelines and we will now look in much more detail, exactly how long you can store a frozen turkey breast in the freezer.

Grab Those Frozen Turkey Breast Bargains And Freeze For Another Day!

If You Already Have A Turkey Breast In Your Freezer

Firstly we will look at the scenario where you already have a frozen turkey breast in the freezer, and are wondering whether it will still be safe to use.

To answer that with any certainty, we have to go through a few questions to find out the likely condition of the frozen product.

Was The Turkey Breast Frozen Or Fresh When Purchased


If the turkey breast was frozen when you bought it, there may be a ‘frozen on’ and ‘use by’ date printed on the packaging.

The usual timeframe for a frozen turkey breast is 12 months, providing the product has remained at 0oF or colder for the whole time.

Depending on how long the grocery store has had the frozen turkey breast on stock, will determine how long you have left to keep it in your freezer.

For instance, if the turkey breast was frozen in January, and remained in the store freezer for 3 months before being bought by you in March, you would technically have 9 months remaining to keep in your own home freezer.

Please remember that the 12 month guideline is exactly that, a guideline. It does not mean that your frozen turkey breast needs to be thrown away after 12 months, it merely means that the quality of the meat will start to deteriorate after this timeframe, and may not be as succulent and flavorful as when used before the 12 month period. 


If the turkey breast was fresh when you bought it, then provided you wrapped the meat well, you will have had a full 12 months to store it in your freezer without affecting the quality of the meat too much.

Providing the frozen turkey breast has been stored at a minimum temperature of 0oF, it will still be perfectly safe to eat up to 24 months or longer, although there will be quality and freezer burn issues the longer you keep it.

Was The Frozen Turkey Breast Well Packaged

Depending on how the frozen turkey breast was packaged prior to putting it into your own home freezer, will have an effect on how long it will last.

If the frozen turkey breast came in a shrink wrapped plastic wrapper, and provided that packaging is not damaged in any way with holes or tears, then your meat should be fine to use up until the 12 month mark.

If the turkey breast was frozen in freezer paper or ziplock plastic bags, again, provided there has not been any damage to the integrity of the packaging, 12 months should be fine for storage.

Damaged Packaging

If when you come to take the frozen turkey breast out of the freezer, you find that the packaging has been damaged and some of the meat has been exposed to the air, you may find that the meat has got freezer burn.

Freezer burn is not a food safety issue, and the meat will still be safe to cook and eat, however there will be a reduction in both the quality, texture, and taste of the meat.

In some instances, the freezer burned areas of the meat can be cut away after thawing, however if the burn is on a large scale and affects much of the meat, you will be better disposing of it, or cooking for your pets, as it won’t make very good eating.

If You Want To Freeze A Turkey Breast

Now we will look at how you can take advantage of the store bargains and freeze the turkey breast for using at a later date. Taking the time to package the meat properly will ensure you can keep the turkey breast protected from freezer burn and increase the length of time you can store the meat in the freezer without sacrificing the quality.


If you have bought the turkey breast fresh from a meat market, it has likely been wrapped in freezer paper. Again, this is a good start, but will benefit from being wrapped in an airtight plastic bag. Be sure to write the date of freezing on the outside of the butcher paper so that you have a reference to when you froze it.


If the turkey breast you have purchased is already frozen, it is likely to be wrapped in plastic shrink wrapped packaging. Providing this has not got any holes or damage to the packaging, it is a good start and you should leave the turkey breast in its original wrapper.

As added protection it would be beneficial to place the turkey breast into another airtight bag to further protect it.

Thawing The Frozen Turkey Breast

When it comes time to thawing the frozen turkey breast, there are several ways you can do it to ensure that it is done safely, without affecting the quality of the meat.

Defrost In the Refrigerator

The easiest and safest way to defrost your frozen turkey breast would be to allow it to thaw out naturally in the refrigerator.

Depending on the size of the breast, this could take 24-48 hours to thaw completely, however due to it being done in the chilled environment of the refrigerator, there is no risk of the meat developing harmful pathogenic bacteria due to warm temperatures.

A general refrigeration defrost guide is that you want to allow 24 hours per 5lb weight.

Defrost In Cold Water

If you don’t have the time to allow the turkey breast to thaw in the refrigerator, then you can speed up the process by doing it in a cold water bath.

You need to fill a sink or bucket with enough cold water to fully submerge the turkey and then change the water every 30 minutes.

A general cold water defrost guide is that you allow 30 minutes per 1lb weight, when changing the cold water every 30 minutes.

Defrost In The Microwave

If you are really pushed for time, then the frozen turkey breast can be defrosted using your microwave defrost function.

Although this process is much quicker, it can sometimes start to partially cook the turkey and so lead to a reduction in quality.

You would need to refer to the manufacturers recommendations for advice on timings and setting to defrost your turkey breast.

A general microwave defrost guide would be 6 minutes per 1lb weight on the defrost setting.


NEVER thaw the turkey at room temperature as this will allow dangerous bacteria to develop and multiply which can cause food poisoning.

ALWAYS ensure that your cooked turkey reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165oF

Frozen Turkey Breast Has Freezer Burn

Frozen Turkey Breast Can Suffer Freezer Burn
Freezer Burn Affects Food Quality NOT Food Safety!

If after thawing your frozen turkey breast you discover that the meat has been affected with freezer burn, all is not lost.

As mentioned earlier, freezer burn does not affect the safety of eating the meat, it just reduces the quality of the taste, texture and moistness.

Depending on the severity of the damage, you may be able to cut away the affected areas and cook the turkey as normal.

If the freezer burn is over a large area of the meat, depending on just how deep the freezer burn is, again you may be able to salvage the meat for a meal.

Sometimes putting the meat in a brine solution will help to rejuvenate the meat and add flavor and moisture. You can see how to do this in the next section of this article below.

It will be quite apparent from the look of the meat if it is so freezer burnt as to make it unusable, and then it is up to you whether you wish to throw it away, or cook it up for pet food if you have cats or dogs.

How To Brine A Frozen Turkey Breast

Brining is a method used by many to add flavor and moisture to poultry prior to cooking.

This can be a useful way to perhaps save a frozen turkey breast that has been the victim of freezer burn.

Quite simply, brining is just allowing the meat to soak in a salt and water solution that has had some herbs or spices added to provide flavor.

Here is a simple brine solution that you could use:

A Brine Adds Flavor And Moisture To Meat

Turkey Breast Brine Recipe

  •  8 cups water
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 8 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ¼ cup Fresh Sage
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 lemons cut in half
  • 1 orange cut in half

Boil the water and add the remaining ingredients to the pot. Be sure to squeeze the juice from the lemons and orange into the pot before dropping in the squeezed portions. 

Boil the ingredients until the sugar and salt have totally dissolved and then allow the brine to cool completely. You can add some ice to speed up the process.

Once completely cooled, submerge the turkey breast fully into the brine. You may need to add a little more water to ensure it is fully covered, and also place something on top of the turkey to keep it fully submerged.

Place the brine and turkey into the refrigerator and leave to soak for 12 – 24 hours.

When ready to cook the turkey breast, remove it from the brine and pat dry. Allow the turkey breast to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow for even cooking.


Hopefully this article has answered the question to how long you can keep a frozen turkey breast and still be safe to eat.

Ultimately, so long as the meat has remained frozen for the entire time at a temperature of 0oF or colder, you could keep the meat for years.

However, as stated in the article, any time beyond 12 months and you will start to see a decrease in the quality and taste of the meat, but it will still be perfectly safe to eat provided you cook it to a minimum internal temperature of 165oF!

Here is a useful pdf document about safely cooking your turkey breast : Let’s Talk Turkey – Facts for Food Safety

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