How Long Does it Take to Cook Ground Turkey? [Quick Answer & More!]

Cooking with ground turkey is a great way to stay healthy. Some even use it as a replacement for ground beef. 

Sometimes, it is hard to tell if your meat is fully cooked, especially if you are new to cooking. You need to get this right, because cooking ground meat incorrectly or undercooking it can make you sick. 

So, how long do you cook turkey?

On average, you should cook the turkey for 14 to 16 minutes or until it starts to brown a little. This is an indicator that the meat has cooked through and is no longer pink (uncooked) on the inside. 

If you continue to cook ground turkey for 20-25 minutes then chances are that you are overcooking the meat.. 

To add more flavor to your dish, use diced onion and garlic. If you have seasonings on hand then you can sprinkle that in, too.


How to Tell When Ground Turkey is Done Cooking? 

When you overcook ground turkey or any other ground meat for that matter, it can become crumbly and lose a lot of flavor. Sometimes meats like beef and turkey remain pink in the middle even after cooking them on high heat (at 160F). 

Check for doneness after 14 minutes have passed. Take out a little piece of the ground meat and slice it down the middle. If you don’t see any pink portion inside, it is ready to eat. 


How Long Should You Cook Ground Meat? 

For ground turkey, cooking for 14 to 16 minutes on medium high heat ensures that the meat is cooked unformily, both inside and out. The same rule applies for other kinds of meat like ground chicken or ground beef.

When the meat starts to brown, this is a sure sign that it has finished cooking. The meat is now ready to be eaten with sides or dressings or to be added to pasta, soups and more.

One of my personal favorites is ground turkey chili, after browning the meat I just add in the tomato sauce, beans, and seasoning and let it simmer for around 20 minutes.

 

Does Ground Turkey Need to be Fully Cooked Before Eating? 

The answer is a resounding yes. Any meat (there are few exceptions) needs to be cooked well before consumption. The risk of bacterial infection is high when you consume raw or uncooked meat. You could end up with severe food poisoning.

There are some meats You can eat  raw. Sushi is a prime example of this. And then you have dishes like the classic beef tartare. 

Since ground meat is usually not considered to be a “prime cut,” one should always make efforts to cook it properly.


Is Eating Medium Rare Ground Turkey Okay? 

Sometimes eating meat that is medium rare is okay. Some cuisines even recommend this when it comes to cooking and eating steak.

Ground turkey is a different story. If you’re ever served “medium rare” ground turkey, avoid eating it. You may end up offending your host, but declining this type of meat can make you sick.

Remember the golden rule: You should always cook ground turkey for at least 14 to 16 minutes. 

Now that you know what kind of ground turkey is safe to eat and how to cook it, let's find out how to store leftovers.


How Long Can I Keep Ground Turkey in the Fridge? 

According to the USDA, store ground turkey in the fridge for three or four days, but not beyond that. When you pack leftover ground turkey, store it in a sealed tight container. This helps keep the meat fresh. 

If you’re wondering whether this rule applies to all ground turkey, yes, it does. 


What Are the Different Types of Ground Turkey? 

There are actually a few varieties of ground turkey. Let’s look at some of these. 


Ground Turkey 

This is what we are referring to throughout the article. This is primarily dark meat and has around 10 to 15 percent fat. 

Ground turkey meat in it’s package

Frozen Ground Turkey 

Most of the time, the frozen turkey version is dark meat and can contain as many calories as beef and other meats. This is great to have around when you plan to cook a turkey dish one of these days, but not immediately. 

Bear in mind that you will need to take it out of the freezer to thaw before cooking either in the fridge or the microwave.


Ground Turkey Breast 

This is the meat I normally cook. Ground turkey breast is the leanest type of ground turkey and has almost no fat. The only downside is that it is relatively flavorless which means you need  a lot of seasoning when you cook with this.  Ground turkey breast also tends to be drier because the fat is trimmed out. 

If the recipe is spicy enough then you have your job cut out, otherwise season or marinate it well before cooking.  

Not a fan of turkey breast? Try chicken breast instead. Read our article on some delicious recipe ideas featuring chicken breast

What is the Difference Between Ground Turkey Breast and Ground Turkey? 

Ground turkey breast is fully breast (like chicken breast). I prefer to use it in my meals. Ground turkey contains some dark meat which makes it very tasty, and some people prefer that. Another difference is the amount of fat. Regular ground turkey has more fat compared to ground turkey breast. 


Turkey Patties and Turkey Sausage 

Turkey patties and sausages can be convenient for cooking and potentially a cheaper option. The drawback of pre-made ground turkey patties and sausages is that processing can add unwanted ingredients. This is something to note if you’re health conscious and careful about what goes into your body.


DIY Ground Turkey 

If none of the options suit you, there is an alternative way to make your own ground turkey. This ensures you have complete control over what goes into the meat and what cuts of turkey you use. 

We don’t have a guide on how to do this yet, but here is a great video on where to start. 


Step by Step Guide on How To Cook Ground Turkey 

Ground turkey is a tasty addition to any meal. For meat eaters out there, it is less fatty and has less calories overall, but one still feels remarkably full after eating it. 


What do I Need to Cook Ground Turkey? 

There are a few tools that you will need to keep on hand that will make cooking ground turkey easy and perfect every time. 


Materials 

The materials needed are: 

  • A flat and large frying pan, cast iron skillet, or stainless steel pot 
  • Oil 
  • Onions and garlic (optional) 
  • Seasoning 
  • A thermometer

There aren’t too many materials involved, but keep these handy in your kitchen when you’re making a recipe that requires ground turkey. 


Preparation

Before you begin to cook ground turkey, ensure you have the correct pan. I use just a flat frying pan to cook ground turkey. Use a cast iron skillet, if you prefer. 


Step 1:

Add in a dash of oil or the 1 cal spray, which you can purchase off of Amazon, and let the pan heat up for about 30 seconds to a minute. 

Important note: If you are using an electric stove, go a little high on the heat. When you put the ingredients in the pan, make sure you hear a gentle sizzle. This means the pan is hot and ready to cook. 


Step 2: 

Add in your diced onion and minced garlic (if you’d like). Let that cook and soften for a minute. The onions are ready when they become translucent and start to brown. 


Step 3: 

Once the onions are ready, add in the ground turkey and break it apart with a wooden spoon or masher. At this point you can sprinkle in your seasoning. 

I usually like to add a lot of seasoning to give the turkey some flavor. Stir the ground turkey around in the pot or pan for about 14 to 16 minutes. 


Step 4: 

Take the temperature of the meat with a thermometer. If the internal temperature says 160 degrees Fahrenheit then the ground turkey should be cooked through. 

If you don’t have a thermometer, assess whether or not the turkey is starting to brown. If this is the case then the turkey is most likely  done cooking. 

Take the pan off  the stove and serve!


What Can I Add to Ground Turkey to Enhance Flavor? 

Some of my friends and family like the fact that ground turkey is healthier, but they often struggle with the taste. They find ground turkey bland.  

What spices should you add for more flavor? 

Garlic - I use so much garlic in my cooking, almost to a detriment. Adding garlic to any dish will give it a much needed flavor enhancement. 

Onions - When cooking, I typically use white onions as a base or “sofrito” for any dish. 

Herbs - A little oregano and thyme should do the trick for cooking ground turkey. Sometimes I also add in lemon pepper seasoning. 

Paprika - It depends on the recipe but paprika can be a tasty addition to ground turkey. 

Lemon - Want a more zesty flavor? Adding lemon juice or a sprinkle of lemon zest to your ground turkey will definitely give it a flavor kick. 

Butter - Ground turkey is already healthy, adding a tiny amount of butter for cooking should be fine. 


Benefits to Cooking with Ground Turkey 

Health 

Many people opt for ground turkey for health reasons. Ground turkey is low in fat (although sometimes the fat percentages vary). For example, if you purchase ground turkey breast then the flavor and the fat percentage will be lower than in regular ground turkey. 

Ground turkey also has high protein content and little sodium which makes the food a favorite amongst gym junkies! 


Versatile 

Ground turkey has a neutral flavor. You can add a variety of different spices to ground turkey to enhance the flavor. 

Sometimes I swap ground beef with ground turkey for a healthier and lighter option. When ground turkey is the star of the meal (like in burgers or meatballs) I always go extra heavy on the seasoning.

 

Easy 

Cooking ground turkey is easy. After adding in a few spices, all you have to do is cook it for 14 to 16 minutes. Eat as is or to add to your favorite stew. 


Budget Friendly

You can buy it in bulk. Store it in the freezer to use at a later date. Meal prep becomes easy when you have ground turkey available.


Recipe Ideas With Ground Turkey 

So far, we have looked at different recipes: turkey meatballs, patties, and sausages. Some of my favorite recipes with ground turkey include: 


Ground Turkey Chili 

This recipe only takes around 30 minutes to make and is delicious and full of flavor. Add some seasoning to the meat, brown it. Add in the tomato sauce along with cooked or canned pinto and kidney beans.

Let it simmer for around 20 minutes. 

Serve with some delicious cornbread and you have a quick and healthy lunch. 


Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti or Rice 

You can mold the turkey breast into small meatballs, bake them for about 30 minutes and then enjoy with your favorite pasta sauce. Add some broccoli for a healthy side

If you have an air fryer, you can put the meatballs in the air fryer and cook for around 15 minutes. 


Ground Turkey Breast Soup 

Brown some ground turkey breast, and add in some vegetable or chicken stock, celery, carrots and onions. You have delicious and low calorie food ready to serve. 

This soup is great for freezing. 


Ground Turkey Tacos 

Tacos are a perfect meal to make with ground turkey. Simply replace your ground beef with healthier ground turkey and it will still turn out delicious.

 

Final Thoughts

Ground turkey is a healthy meat option for a variety of recipes. Turkey burgers, meatballs, and even soup are some of my favorite meals to make. Most people usually prefer ground beef or other common meats, but ground turkey makes a healthier option in many ways. 

It takes about 14 to 16 minutes to cook ground turkey. Cooking it until there is no more pink meat is the most important aspect.  You want to kill off all the bacteria that cause food borne illnesses. 

From all the ground turkey options out there, I prefer to cook with ground turkey breast. You can add as much flavoring as you want to enhance the meal.  More importantly, it is healthier than using frozen ground turkey or pre-made turkey patties and sausages.

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