No longer only popular at Thanksgiving, turkey’s made a strong comeback in recent years. The lean, protein-packed meat provides nutrients such as iron, potassium, B vitamins and zinc — and it’s more affordable than ground beef or pork. The tasty dishes that use this meat give you a great reason to keep some frozen turkey on hand. By adhering to the U.S. Department of Agriculture safe thawing practices, your ground turkey will be ready to cook and delicious in any dish.
Thawing in the Refrigerator
The most hands-off method of thawing ground turkey is in your refrigerator. This is because you do not need to keep checking the turkey; you can simply place it in the refrigerator and let time go to work. Refrigerator thawing is an overnight endeavor, requiring 12 to 24 hours to thaw even a pound of the meat, so it isn’t the best option if you’re in a hurry. Once thawed, the ground turkey should be cooked within one to two days to be safe.
The fastest way to thaw frozen ground turkey is in a microwave. Use the defrost setting and input the weight of your ground turkey to defrost it, checking periodically to ensure even defrosting. If you thaw your turkey in the microwave, cook it immediately after thawing. The microwave can begin cooking some of the meat, making it prone to bacteria if not cooked directly following the defrosting process.
If you prefer not to thaw in a microwave or are unable to, but need to thaw ground turkey in a shorter amount of time, use a cold-water thawing process. Add cold water to a sink or container large enough to submerge the package of frozen ground turkey. If the turkey is in paper wrapping, place it in a waterproof bag first, to prevent bacteria and contamination. Refresh the water every half hour, to keep it cold, until the turkey is thawed. For a pound or less of ground turkey, estimate a minimum of an hour of thawing time, then add an extra half hour for each pound after that. The turkey may take a shorter or longer time to thaw, but this will give you a solid starting point.
Cooking Frozen Turkey
Ground turkey, whether cooked or uncooked, can be reheated or cooked straight from the freezer. You’ll need to increase the cooking time by 50 percent if you choose this method. For example: one hour of cooking time will become one-and-a-half hours. While not always useful, such as sauteing the meat, other cooking methods such as slow-cooker recipes become easier when you can add frozen ground turkey without waiting for it to thaw.
References and ResourcesUniversity of Illinois Extension: Turkey for the Holidays: Nutrition
USDA: Freezing and Food Safety
USDA: The Big Thaw: Safe Defrosting Methods for Consumers
USDA: Cooking Safely in the Microwave Oven