Turkey is not just for Thanksgiving, and many families are opting for turkey as a healthier choice at mealtimes. Whether you prefer it whole or ground, turkey is delicious, nutritious, and very versatile.
But what if you’ve forgotten to get your ground turkey out of the freezer for dinner?
Can you cook ground turkey from frozen? Yes, it is safe to cook frozen ground turkey, but you will need to extend the cooking time to ensure it is thoroughly cooked. It is also difficult to brown frozen ground turkey, so the final dish may taste slightly different.
In a panic about what to do with your pack of frozen ground turkey? Don’t worry, we’ve got everything you need to know about the best way to cook ground turkey from frozen right here!
Can You Cook Ground Turkey From Frozen?
Ground turkey is a hugely versatile cooking ingredient, offering us a healthy choice of lean protein to add to pasta, salads, tacos, and many other meals.
It can be used instead of ground pork or beef as a low-fat alternative, ideal for making tasty burgers, meatballs, and other meat-based recipes.
We’re all aware that most types of meat and poultry should be thawed before cooking, so it is very dismaying when you realize you’ve forgotten to get the ground turkey out of the freezer for dinner.
But the good news is that all is not lost, as you can safely cook ground turkey from frozen!
It takes a bit more care and attention than cooking fresh ground turkey, and you will have to tweak your cooking times to make sure the meat is cooked thoroughly.
But, with a few simple changes, you can turn frozen ground turkey into a delicious family meal in no time at all!
What Is The Best Way To Cook Ground Turkey From Frozen?
If you’re faced with the task of cooking a pack of ground turkey for dinner, it is very simple to incorporate this into your normal weekday dinner recipe.
The turkey can be thawed at the start of the cooking process, and the rest of the ingredients added once the meat is fully defrosted.
This is normally quicker than waiting for your turkey to defrost, so it is a handy method if you are in a hurry. However, you will need to extend the cooking time for your meal, normally by around 50%.
So, if your ground turkey recipe normally takes 60 minutes to cook, you will need to extend this by a further 30 minutes if using frozen turkey.
There is some flexibility in this time extension, as it depends on how much turkey you are using and how quickly it defrosts in the pan. If you’ve got a little pack of ground turkey, it may only take 15-20 minutes to thaw out using this method.
If you’re at all unsure, just extend the cooking time by a few more minutes. Eating partially cooked turkey is not advisable, so on this occasion, you should definitely err on the side of caution!
Step-By-Step Guide To Cooking Frozen Ground Turkey
This quick and easy guide will help you get your frozen ground turkey sizzling away in no time at all! It does require a little bit of care and attention, but it is much faster than waiting for your ground turkey to thaw out.
- Remove the frozen ground turkey from the freezer and take it out of its packaging.
- Place the frozen ground turkey in a skillet. It should be large enough for the largest side of the slab of frozen meat to sit on the base of the pan. This increases the surface area in contact with the heat, speeding up the defrosting process.
- Pour a small amount of water into the pan. You just need enough to cover the base of the pan, but not so much that the meat is submerged.
- Place the pan on medium heat and bring to a simmer. Place a lid on the pan—this will trap heat and steam inside, helping to defrost the turkey.
- Check the meat after a couple of minutes; if the outside looks to have thawed, then pull these parts away to reveal the frozen inner section.
- Repeat until the frozen ground turkey is broken into smaller pieces. If all the water evaporates, add a splash more to prevent the meat from burning.
- If the meat is no longer stuck together in clumps, it is fully defrosted. At this point, you can begin to add the other ingredients in your recipe, such as onions, garlic, vegetables, and seasoning.
- Remember to extend the cooking time of your recipe to compensate for defrosting the frozen ground turkey. If your recipe takes 45 minutes, start this time from the point where you begin to add other ingredients.
Is It Better To Thaw Ground Turkey Before Cooking?
While our failsafe guide will ensure that your frozen ground turkey can quickly be turned into a tasty family dinner, is this the best option you have available?
Well, it all depends on the results you are looking for! Cooking ground turkey from frozen will work well for some recipes, but for others, you might be disappointed with the results.
The reason for this is that the ground turkey will start to cook as it is defrosting.
This is not a problem when it comes to food safety, as the granules of turkey are small enough to quickly reach the high temperatures needed to ensure they are cooked through thoroughly.
But to do this we need to add a splash of water to the pan, which is essential to stop the frozen turkey from burning. The problem with this is that the water also prevents one of the essential processes needed to build flavor—browning!
Most ground turkey recipes will start by browning the meat in oil, before adding other ingredients. This gives every piece of turkey a delicious caramelized brown coating, which then adds flavor to the whole dish.
So, if you’re cooking a ground turkey recipe where browning is an essential step, then it might be preferable to defrost the turkey before cooking it.
You could try cooking it from frozen using the steps outlined above, but the flavor might not be quite the same.
However, for recipes where frozen turkey is not browned in oil, the defrosting in a skillet method will work perfectly well!
How To Thaw Frozen Ground Turkey
OK, so if defrosting your ground turkey in a skillet is not going to work for your recipe, it is time for plan B!
Luckily there are many ways in which you can defrost ground turkey, and by using some quick hacks we can speed up the process considerably.
There are a few methods you can use to defrost ground turkey, and the one you choose will depend on how much time you have available:
Thawing Frozen Ground Turkey In The Microwave
This is the method of choice if you are in a hurry, and want the turkey defrosting to cook for dinner straightaway.
The key thing to remember when defrosting meat in the microwave is that it will start to cook as soon as it is thawed.
This means you need to add it to a hot pan straight away, and it cannot be stored to use later that day or the next day.
Place the ground turkey in a microwave-safe container or plate, and cover it to prevent evaporation. Set the microwave to defrost (or 30% power setting) for 2 minutes per pound of turkey.
If your ground turkey is not fully thawed, use a spoon or fork to break it into smaller chunks and set the microwave for a further minute. Repeat until the meat is almost thawed, but stop before it starts to cook.
Thawing Frozen Ground Turkey In A Water Bath
This is not quite as fast as defrosting ground turkey in the microwave, but certainly speedier than the overnight refrigerator method.
Take your frozen turkey and place it into a waterproof container. Put this in a larger bowl or pan, and add cool water to cover the outside of the container.
Don’t be tempted to use warm or hot water, as you will thaw the outside too quickly and the inside will still be frozen solid!
Check the water every half hour or so – it will feel chilled as the turkey begins to thaw. Refresh the water regularly until the meat is completely thawed.
When using this method you will need to use the ground turkey within an hour of it fully thawing out. It cannot be refrozen or stored in the refrigerator, as bacteria may have started to develop in the meat.
Thawing Frozen Ground Turkey In The Refrigerator
This is the no-fuss method for thawing frozen ground turkey. All you need to do is take the package from the freezer and pop it onto a plate in the refrigerator! But if speed is of the essence, then pick an alternative method.
Defrosting frozen ground turkey in the fridge can take up to 24 hours, depending on how much meat you need to thaw out.
There is another advantage to this method, as it preserved the maximum amount of moisture in your ground turkey. This will give you succulent, juicy ground pork that browns perfectly when added to a hot pan.
When using this method, you can keep defrosted ground turkey in the fridge for up to 2 days. So if you don’t get round to cooking your turkey dinner, it’ll be fine to eat the next day.