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The Easiest Way to Keep Poultry Fresh

Turkey, chicken and duck, along with other birds are some of the most popular meats in the world, but like all foods, there are certain limitations on how long one can keep poultry fresh. Here are some basic tips to keep your poultry fresher, longer:

Immediately upon returning home from the grocery store place fresh raw poultry in a refrigerator that maintains 40 degrees F or less or freeze poultry immediately at 0 degrees F or lower. Once it has been frozen poultry should remain safe to eat almost indefinitely, but for the best quality poultry should be cooked and eaten within 1 year of freezing. If you plan on freezing it for longer than two months, wrap the store plastic packages with freezer bags, freezer plastic wrap or airtight heavy-duty aluminum foil. Use airtight freezer containers to repackage larger quantities into smaller units. Wrapping properly helps to prevents "freezer burn", which is drying of the surface of the poultry, resulting in grayish brown leather-like spots. It is the result of air reaching the food surface, freezer-burned portions can be cut away either before or after cooking the poultry. Remember that after cooking a meat thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat, brea st should be between 170 to 175 degrees F. and thighs should be 180 to 185 degrees F.

When purchasing fresh poultry it should feel cold to the touch, and it is interesting to note that it is not necessary to wash raw poultry since any bacteria which might be present are destroyed in the cooking process. Unlike most poultry, fresh whole turkey may be stored longer, the USDA has not decided on an exact storage time fresh turkey will keep unopened up to one week but no longer than 2 days past the sell-by date. It must be stored unopened in the coldest part of the refrigerator at all times.

Below are the refrigerator storage (40 degrees F or below) guidelines according to the USDA:

Fresh chicken, giblets or ground chicken - 1 to 2 days.

Cooked poultry, leftovers - 3 to 4 days.

Poultry broth or gravy - 1 to 2 days.

Cooked casseroles, dishes or soup - 3 to 4 days.

cooked pieces, covered with broth or gravy - 1 to 2 days.

Cooked nuggets or patties - 1 to 2 days.

Fried poultry - 3 to 4 days.

Take-out convenience poultry (rotisserie, fried, etc.) - 3 to 4 days.

Restaurant leftovers, brought immediately home - 3 to 4 days.

Store cooked poultry dinner including gravy - 1 to 2 days.

Chicken salad - 3 to 5 days.

Deli sliced poultry luncheon meat - 3 to 5 days.

Poultry luncheon meat, sealed in package - 2 weeks (but no longer than 1 week after the sell-by date).

Poultry luncheon meat, after opening - 3 to 5 days.

Vacuum packed dinners, commercial brand with USDA seal, unopened 2 weeks - opened 3 to 4 days.

Poultry hotdogs, unopened - 2 weeks (but no longer than 1 week after the sell-by date).

Poultry hotdogs, after opening - 7 days

Canned poultry products - 2 to 5 years in pantry.


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