Can You Cook Frozen Ground Turkey?

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Have you ever rushed out of the house on your way to work and asked your husband to please take the frozen ground turkey out of the freezer so that it can thaw? When you arrive home, ready to get dinner on the go, you find that he forgot to take out the turkey.

So can you cook frozen ground turkey, and is it safe?

It is safe to cook the frozen ground turkey. You’ll need to allow extra turkey cooking time (approximately 50% longer) so the meat can thaw and cook through properly. The ground turkey meat will start to separate as it thaws.

Put your mind at ease with this detailed guide on the safety of cooking frozen ground turkey.

Is Cooking Frozen Ground Turkey Possible?

Cooking ground turkey from frozen is possible. The only difference is you’ll need to add at least 50% longer cooking time to ensure the meat is cooked through (and to avoid salmonella). If you have to cook the meat for 30 minutes, you must adjust the time to one hour.

According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and the FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Services), cooking frozen ground turkey meat without thawing is perfectly safe. However, they suggest you follow specific guidelines to ensure the meat is safe to consume.

Here’s a quick look at the approved guidelines:

  1. Avoid cooking frozen turkey meat in a slow cooker or crockpot as the frozen meat spends too much time in a temperature where bacteria, such as salmonella, grow (between 40℉ and 140℉).
  2. Avoid grilling or sauteing frozen ground turkey meat. Instead, simmer it in a pan or bake it in the oven (the temperature mustn’t go below 350℉.)
  3. Use a knife such as a cleaver to break up the frozen meat. Regular knives can slip and cause accidental injuries.

What Is the Fastest Way to Cook a Frozen Ground Turkey?

If you’re in a hurry to cook a ground turkey dish, you can pop the frozen meat into the microwave to defrost it first by following these simple steps:

  1. Ensure the wrapping has been removed from the frozen ground turkey before placing it in the microwave.
  2. Set your microwave to the defrost setting and start with 2 minutes per pound.

Top Tip: If your microwave doesn’t have a defrost setting, use the 30% power level to ensure the meat completely defrosts.

  1. Ensure the meat doesn’t go brown, as you only want to defrost the meat (not cook it).
  2. Poke a fork into the meat; if it’s soft and there are no hard chunks, remove it from the microwave and cook as soon as possible to avoid spoiling.

Good to know: If you leave the ground turkey to defrost for too long, the meat will become very rubbery and dry. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to improve the meat quality once it’s been overcooked in a microwave.

How Long Do You Cook Frozen Ground Turkey?

Cooking ground turkey from frozen depends on the recipe and the amount of frozen meat you use. As a general guideline, cooking frozen ground turkey takes around 10 minutes per pound over medium heat.

So to be safe, you should add 15 to 30 minutes extra to ensure the dish reaches an internal temperature of 165℉. 

Remember to break the meat up as you go, as the frozen meat tends to stick together and stays frozen for longer in the middle.

Ways to Cook Frozen Ground Turkey

Let’s take a closer look at some ways to cook frozen ground turkey:

In a Skillet

Follow these simple instructions to cook frozen ground turkey in a skillet:

  1. Remove the frozen ground turkey from the freezer and ensure the plastic wrapping has been completely removed.
  2. Place the frozen meat into a skillet with a little water (don’t cover the meat)
  3. Cover the skillet with a lid and let the water simmer. This will create steam and heat, which helps defrost the frozen meat faster.
  4. Keep an eye on the meat. Once it starts turning brown on the outside, use a fork to separate the meat. You’ll notice the frozen chunks of meat are still red and frozen. Spread the meat evenly around the skillet.
  5. Put the lid on again and wait a few minutes. Repeat step 4 and add small amounts of water until there is no more red or frozen meat in the skillet.

Top Tip: Adding small amounts of water as you break the meat apart prevents the meat from burning and sticking to the bottom of the skillet.

  1. Add your spices, sauces, and vegetables once your ground turkey is completely defrosted (no hard bits or red meat is visible).

Instant Pot

Follow these simple instructions to cook frozen ground turkey in an instant pot:

  1. Place the frozen ground turkey in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Add ½ cup of cold water, and sprinkle your spices on top.

Top Tip: Don’t add more water to the pot. Even though ½ cup seems like a small amount of water, remember that the meat will defrost, producing more liquid.

  1. Place the lid on top and seal the pot. Turn the pressure valve to the high setting. Allow cooking time for 15 minutes per 1 pound of frozen ground turkey.
  2. Once the time is up, release the pressure carefully and remove the lid. Be careful not to burn yourself on the sudden burst of steam when you open the lid. The meat should be fully defrosted by this point.
  3. Saute your meat using the high setting and gently separate the ground turkey with a wooden spoon. Add more seasoning and continue to cook until all the liquid is gone.

Can I Cook Frozen Ground Turkey in a Skillet?

Cooking frozen ground turkey in a skillet is one of the best (and quickest) ways to defrost and cook the meat.

My Last Foodie Thoughts

Forgetting to take out frozen ground turkey is common in most households, and it happens to the best of us. 

Luckily, there is no need to panic as there are ways to get around this and still make your delicious meal (by adding a little extra time).

Even though you may be in a rush to put dinner on the table, you must follow the correct steps to avoid contamination or the growth of bacteria. Salmonella poisoning from raw (and unthawed meat) can be dangerous, especially when consumed.

So try not to let something like frozen ground turkey ruin your dinner plans.

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