How Long to Defrost Ground Turkey Like a Pro!

Ground turkey is a versatile and healthy ingredient that can be used in a number of different dishes such as burgers, soups, and stir-fries. Before using ground turkey, it is important to ensure that it is properly defrosted to prevent any contamination or spoilage. In this article, we will explore the different methods of defrosting ground turkey like a pro, how long it takes, and offer tips for getting the best results.

Why is it important to defrost ground turkey correctly?

Defrosting your ground turkey correctly is crucial to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria, such as salmonella and E. coli. When frozen food is left at room temperature, the outer layer thaws while the interior remains frozen, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Defrosting turkey in the microwave or hot water also increases the risk of bacterial growth as they can create hot spots that cause uneven defrosting. Proper defrosting ensures that the turkey is safe to eat and maintains its quality, texture, and flavor.

Methods for defrosting ground turkey

Refrigerator method

The most effective and safest method to defrost ground turkey is by keeping it in the refrigerator. This method allows you to control the temperature and guarantees even defrosting. Follow these steps to defrost your turkey using this method:

  • Remove the frozen ground turkey from the freezer and place it in a shallow dish or on a plate to catch any juices that may leak.
  • Place the turkey in the refrigerator, ideally on the bottom shelf where it is coldest.
  • Allow approximately 24 hours of defrosting time per 4-5 pounds of meat. A 1-pound package will take approximately 12-24 hours to defrost.
  • Don’t refreeze the ground turkey once it has been defrosted in the fridge.

Coldwater method

If you don’t have time to wait for the ground turkey to defrost in the refrigerator or forgot to take it out in advance, the coldwater method is an excellent alternative. Some people prefer to use this method as they argue that the defrosting process is quicker than using the refrigerator method. Here’s how to do it:

  • Place the frozen ground turkey in a sealed plastic bag and then in a large bowl or sink filled with cold water.
  • Change the water every 30 minutes to ensure that it stays cold.
  • It takes approximately 1 hour per pound of meat to defrost using the cold water method.
  • Once the ground turkey is defrosted, remove it from the plastic bag and cook immediately.

Microwave method

Using a microwave to defrost ground turkey is not recommended as it can cause hot spots, which create ideal breeding conditions for bacteria. If you must use this method, follow these guidelines:

  • Place the frozen ground turkey on a microwave-safe dish and spritz with some water.
  • Set the defrost function on your microwave and choose the appropriate weight setting as per the manufacturer’s guidelines, or defrost for a minute at a time until fully defrosted.
  • Cook immediately once defrosted as part of your recipe.

The time required to defrost ground turkey

The length of time required to defrost ground turkey depends on the method used. Here’s a summary of how long it takes to defrost ground turkey:

Defrosting method Time required
(per pound of meat)
Refrigerator (40°F or
24 hours
Coldwater (70°F
or less)
60 minutes
(variable wattage)


In conclusion, defrosting ground turkey correctly is of utmost importance to ensure food safety and quality. The refrigerator method is the safest and most effective way to defrost turkey, but it takes longer. The cold water method is a little quicker, but it still takes a significant amount of time. The microwave method, while faster, is not recommended, as it can create uneven thawing and increase the risk of bacterial growth. Whatever method you choose, make sure to handle the turkey safely and cook it once it is fully defrosted to avoid any contamination.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about defrosting ground turkey

1. Is it safe to defrost ground turkey on the kitchen counter?

No, it is not safe to defrost ground turkey on the kitchen counter as it can result in uneven defrosting and lead to bacterial growth. The outside of the meat will defrost more quickly at room temperature, creating a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and pathogens.

2. Can I refreeze ground turkey after I’ve defrosted it?

It is not recommended to refreeze ground turkey once it has been defrosted. This is because the process of freezing and defrosting can cause changes in the meat’s texture that can affect its quality and food safety. Once the turkey is thawed, it should be cooked within a day or two, or else it can spoil and cause food poisoning.

3. How can I tell if my ground turkey is fully defrosted?

There are a few ways to tell if your ground turkey is fully defrosted. The easiest way is to insert a food thermometer into the center of the meat. The temperature should read 165°F, which is the safe minimum cooking temperature for poultry products. You can also check the texture and color of the turkey – it should be soft to the touch, and there should be no ice crystals or solid areas remaining.

4. How long can I keep defrosted ground turkey in the fridge before cooking it?

Defrosted ground turkey should be cooked within 1-2 days after thawing. If you need to keep it for longer, you can store it in the freezer for up to 4 months, or cook the turkey first and then store it in the fridge for up to 4 days.

5. Can I cook frozen ground turkey?

It is not recommended to cook frozen ground turkey as it can cause uneven cooking and increase the risk of bacterial growth. Always make sure to defrost the turkey first using one of the safe methods listed above before cooking.



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