Ground turkey is a lean meat and serves as a wonderful substitute for ground beef, so I always keep several packages in the freezer. These simple ways to defrost ground turkey ensure I will keep my family safe. If you aren't sure of the best methods for how to thaw ground turkey, follow this handy guide.
The last thing you want is to be standing in the kitchen ready to make dinner staring at frozen meat and wondering how to thaw ground turkey. We've all been there before, and we've all dropped the ball, forgetting to take the meat out of the freezer. You can defrost ground turkey in the fridge, but that can take up to 24 hours and sometimes, we need the meat sooner than that. Microwave thawing and thawing in cold water are both options depending on your final cooking application and you can learn more about those methods to defrost turkey meat below.
For the health and safety of your family, it is imperative to follow safe defrosting methods. Keep reading to learn about three safe and effective ways to defrost ground turkey. We'll give you all the tips and tricks to find the best methods so you can get dinner on the table, fast!
Hot dogs can also be frozen and defrosted. If you'd like to learn how to freeze and defrost hot dogs, go HERE.
While many sources claim that ground turkey will thaw in 8 to 12 hours in the fridge, my experience has been that it takes 12-24 hours. Planning ahead is key on this one!
- Remove the package of frozen turkey from the freezer and place the whole package in a bowl or container.
- Cover with plastic wrap to prevent the spread of bacteria if the package leaks while defrosting.
- Place the bowl with the frozen ground turkey on the bottom shelf of the fridge and let it sit for 12 to 24 hours. Be sure to use the meat within 48 hours.
Microwave thawing is the best option when you're in a pinch and need your ground turkey defrosted in a hurry. This method is quick, but the microwave can begin to cook portions of the meat. This method works best for meat that will be browned in a skillet rather than for meat that will be formed into patties or loaves.
- Remove the frozen turkey from the freezer and place the ground meat into a microwave-safe bowl or dish. Be sure to remove it from its original packaging.
- Using the defrost setting on your microwave, select the weight of your package of meat.
- When the microwave beeps during the cycle, open the door and check the progress. This is also a great time to flip the meat on the microwave-safe plate.
- If your microwave doesn't have a defrost function, select the low power (30%) setting and run in 1-minute intervals.
- If necessary, repeat the process until the package of frozen ground turkey is defrosted.
Thawing In Cold Water
The cold water method is not as fast as using the microwave oven but yields better, more even results. Depending on how much you need to defrost and the thickness of the meat in the package, you can thaw a pound of turkey in 15-30 minutes.
- Place the sealed package of turkey into a large bowl of cold water.
- If needed, place a coffee mug on top of the package to keep it submerged in the cold water.
- Change the water every 10 minutes until the ground turkey meat has thawed.
It is safe to cook slightly frozen turkey, but you will need to alter the cooking times. Always cook turkey meat to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F.
According to USDA food safety standards, meat should not be defrosted at room temperature. The safest method and most effective way is to defrost meat in the fridge. Alternative methods like microwave defrosting and cold water defrosting are also effective thawing methods.
The same methods for thawing ground turkey can be used to safely defrost ground beef. I often have to thaw ground beef to make my pan fried meatball recipe.
Best Practices of Thawing Ground Meat / Dos and Don'ts
Thawing raw meat should always be done safely. Raw meat can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria that can make us ill, and safe handling measures will ensure your dinner doesn't make your family sick. Here are some key things to remember when you defrost ground turkey.
- Never thaw ground turkey at room temperature.
- A smaller piece of ground turkey will defrost faster. Place a pound of ground turkey in a plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin to flatten before freezing. This will create more surface area so the thawing process can happen quickly.
- Avoid the danger zone. When defrosted meat is between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F, bacteria growth happens quickly. You want to move meat through this range as quickly as possible.
- Once thawed, ground turkey meat should not be re-frozen.
- Ground turkey should be cooked immediately after defrosting.
- Remove frozen ground turkey from the plastic bag or package before defrosting in the microwave.
- The ground meat should be completely sealed in a vacuum-sealed package or a plastic bag to use the cold water method.
- Never use hot water or warm when defrosting in water. Cold tap water is fine but should be changed every 10 minutes.
- After you thaw ground turkey, it should not have a slimy texture. This indicates that bacterial growth has occurred, which can lead to food poisoning. Slimy meat or meat with an off smell should be discarded.
In the end, safety should be your top priority when cooking for your family. It can be tempting to take shortcuts when thawing meat and just toss the package on the counter, but you don't want your family to get sick. These three options offer the safest way to thaw ground turkey.
Best Ground Turkey Recipes
I use ground turkey in recipes often. Here are some of my favorites:
- Healthy Ground Turkey Bolognese
- Italian Stove Top Stuffed Peppers with Ground Turkey
- Easy Gnocchi Recipe with Bolognese Sauce and Ground Turkey
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