How to Thaw Ground Turkey

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I always keep some frozen ground turkey around to use when I haven’t planned out my meals in advance and need something versatile to whip up with little preparation.

The only problem is that I often haven’t thawed the ground turkey in advance, but that’s not a problem. In this article, I’ll share with you how I quickly thaw ground turkey so I can use it right away.

ground turkey

4 Ways to Defrost Ground Turkey

Thaw it in the fridge

If you’ve got the luxury of time on your hands, you can thaw ground turkey by simply storing it in the fridge. The problem generally is that this only works if you plan at least 24 hours ahead of when you need it.

According to USDA, every 4-5 pounds of ground turkey can take up to 24 hours to thaw completely in the fridge. The more turkey you need to thaw, the more hours or days you need to add to the thawing process.

You also need to be sure to cook the meat within 1-2 days after refrigerating. Otherwise, you’ll risk having the ground turkey go bad.

Defrost it in the microwave

When you don’t have the time to spare, you can always use the trusty old microwave to help with defrosting ground turkey. I personally use the microwave to defrost all different types of meat, because it’s ready in minutes rather than hours.

To defrost the ground turkey in your microwave:

  1. Take the frozen turkey out of the freezer and remove its original packing.
  2. Place it on a microwave-safe plate.
  3. Follow the instructions on your microwave for defrosting meat. Use low power at 1-minute intervals if your microwave doesn’t have a defrost option.
  4. You can use a probe thermometer to tell if the meat’s defrosted. It should read at least 32 to 40°F.

Thaw It in Cold Water

Cold water thawing isn’t as fast as your microwave, but it’s faster than defrosting in the fridge. This method will take a few hours to finish.

Here’s how to thaw ground turkey in cold water:

  1. Take the turkey out of the freezer, remove its packaging, then place it in a sealed bag.
  2. Put the meat in a large bowl or pot.
  3. Fill the bowl or pot with fresh cold water until the turkey is completely submerged.
  4. Cover it with a lid and let it sit for 30 minutes before replacing the cold water.

Each pound of turkey will take 30 minutes to defrost, so 4 pounds of ground turkey will thaw in 2 hours.

Cook It From Frozen

When you’re left with no choice and have hungry peeps waiting, you can cook the ground turkey straight from the freezer. 

This isn’t the best method and should be avoided if you have time for any of the other methods. This is because the water content from it being frozen will flow into the dish and can negatively affect the texture of the turkey.

You also have to adjust the cooking time since it’ll take 50% longer to cook frozen meat. So as not to burn the outside of the meat before cooking the center, you should cook the ground beef in a skillet over low heat, to slowly bring it up to temperature and beyond.

Can I Thaw Ground Turkey at Room Temperature?

You might be wondering why I didn’t suggest that you thaw it at room temperature. It’s faster than in the refrigerator, but slower than in the microwave.

You technically can, but you shouldn’t. Foodborne bacteria acts fast, especially when frozen poultry hits the danger zone between 40 and 140°F. If it sits on your counter longer than two hours, it may become unsafe to eat.

Since the core of a frozen turkey takes longer to thaw than its exterior, chances are you’ll leave it at room temperature for hours. If you want to let the meat defrost on its own, it’s better to stick to the fridge method.


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