Ground turkey is a popular ingredient in many recipes and can be bought either fresh or frozen. The meat can be cooked while it’s still fully frozen or only partially thawed.

Frozen ground turkey can be cooked safely without defrosting. However, frozen meat takes longer to cook than thawed meat — the overall time required for cooking a dish with frozen ground turkey meat is about 50% longer.

The following article will explain how to cook frozen ground turkey safely, without defrosting first, as well as answer some frequently asked questions.

What Is Ground Turkey?

How to Cook Frozen Ground Turkey

Ground turkey is a type of minced meat made with both light and dark turkey meat. The ground mixture is also made with turkey skin and fat. The final product has a characteristic light-pink color and crumbly texture.

Compared to ground beef, another popular type of ground meat, ground turkey is lighter and has a more tender taste. Substitute ground beef with turkey to make healthier versions of traditional beef recipes.

Turkey meat is very affordable and works well in a variety of dishes, including pastas, soups, stuffed peppers, meatballs, pies, and lasagnas.

The ingredient can serve as a great substitute for other types of frozen ground meat like frozen ground beef or frozen ground chicken.

Can You Cook Frozen Ground Turkey?

Frozen Ground Turkey

Frozen ground turkey can be cooked in a variety of ways. Cooking frozen ground turkey is completely safe, but remember that cooking frozen meat may take longer than meat that has been completely thawed. For example, if making a dish with thawed ground turkey takes an hour, making the same dish with frozen turkey will take a half hour longer.

There are multiple effective ways to cook frozen ground turkey, including using a stove, an air fryer, or an instant pot. These methods may differ in difficulty and cooking time, but all of them are completely safe ways to cook frozen meat.

Cooking Frozen Ground Turkey

Cooking with frozen ground turkey takes longer than making a dish using defrosted or fresh meat. However, this method is still faster than waiting for frozen meat to thaw. The most popular ways to cook frozen turkey involve a stove or an instant pot.

Cooking Frozen Ground Turkey on the Stove

Cooking Frozen Ground Turkey on the Stove

To cook frozen ground turkey on the stove, take the meat out of the freezer and remove the packaging. Put the ground meat in a cooking pot and fill the pot with cold water to cover at least the bottom half of the turkey. Cover the pot with a lid and leave the ground meat to simmer on medium-high heat.

After five minutes, use a fork to separate the bits that start turning brown from the chunk of frozen ground turkey. Repeat this procedure every three to five minutes until all of the ground meat turns light brown, which means the meat is safe to add to recipes.

This is a great method to quickly thaw and cook ground turkey. You can also add meat and vegetables to the same pot to make pasta sauces, sautees, or soups.

Cooking Frozen Ground Turkey in an Instant Pot

Cooking Frozen Ground Turkey in an Instant Pot

Take the frozen ground turkey out of its packaging and place the meat at the bottom of the instant pot. Pour in ½ cup of cold water and sprinkle some of your favorite seasonings on top of the frozen meat. Set the instant pot on high pressure and cook the meat for 15 to 20 minutes.

Then, open the pot and gently break the thawed meat using a fork or a spatula. Close the lid again, set the instant pot on high speed, and continue to stir to incorporate the seasoning until all the liquid has evaporated. This recipe works best for recipes that require soft and well-flavored turkey meat, like turkey meatballs.

Alternatively, use an electric pressure cooker and follow the same instructions. The overall cooking process in an instant pot or an electric pressure cooker takes no longer than 40 minutes.

Cooking Frozen Ground Turkey in an Air Fryer

Cooking Frozen Ground Turkey in an Air Fryer

Frozen turkey can be cooked very well in an air fryer. This method works great for making turkey burgers.

Preheat the air fryer to 375°F, then spray the basket and put the turkey burgers in for 15 minutes. Make sure to place the burgers at a distance from each other so that they don’t stick.

How to Defrost Frozen Ground Turkey

If you have enough time to defrost frozen turkey, doing so can make the cooking process quicker and easier. Defrosting may be more effective than cooking the meat frozen because, after defrosting, the meat will cook more evenly and have the same consistency throughout.

USDA says that the best way to thaw ground turkey is by placing it in a refrigerator. Other good ways to defrost ground turkey include using a microwave or putting the frozen meat in cold water.

Thawing in the Refrigerator

Defrosting frozen ground turkey in a refrigerator is the best and safest way to thaw the frozen meat and have it ready for cooking. This process takes between 8 and 12 hours and can be done overnight.

Take the frozen ground turkey out of its packaging and put the meat in a sealed plastic bag. Then, place the turkey in a plastic container or a large bowl. Put the container or bowl on the bottom shelf of the fridge and leave it to defrost for the night. Ground turkey, that is defrosted this way, can be stored up to 48 hours in the fridge or cooked immediately after defrosting.

Thawing in Cold Water

Thawing in Cold Water

Another good way to defrost frozen ground turkey is by placing the turkey in cold water. This is a faster method and takes between 15 and 30 minutes. Defrosting with cold water allows the turkey to be stored in a fridge for up to two days.

Take the frozen ground turkey out of its packaging and put the meat in a bowl filled with cold water. Change the water every five to seven minutes and repeat the procedure until the turkey is fully defrosted. Cook the meat immediately or store it in the fridge for 48 hours maximum.

Thawing in a Microwave

Thawing ground frozen turkey in a microwave is the fastest method to defrost the meat — taking only five to ten minutes. But, after using this method, turkey should be cooked immediately and cannot be stored in the fridge because the heat increases the growth of bacteria on the meat.

Remove packaging from the ground frozen turkey and place the meat on a plate or in a bowl. Put the plate into the microwave and turn the microwave to low heat for five minutes. Check the turkey after five minutes and, if still frozen, heat the meat for another minute. Repeat the last step until the meat is fully defrosted.


Cooking frozen ground turkey is safe and easy, but some precautions should be taken to make sure the meat is cooked fully. The easiest way to cook frozen meat is on the stove, but an air fryer or instant pot can also be used.

However, defrosting ground turkey before cooking better ensures the meat cooks through equally. The best way to defrost ground turkey is by leaving the meat in a fridge, in cold water, or by using a microwave.

FAQs About Cooking Frozen Ground Turkey

The following section of the article answers some of the most common questions about cooking frozen ground turkey.

Is it Safe to Cook Frozen Turkey Without Thawing?

Cooking frozen ground turkey without thawing is completely safe. However, keep in mind that using frozen turkey in a dish will increase the required cooking time by about 50%.

How Do You Know If Frozen Ground Turkey Is Bad?

The best way to tell that the frozen ground turkey has gone bad is by looking at the meat’s color. The normal color for ground turkey is light-pink. But when the meat has spoiled, it turns greenish or grayish. Spoiled meat also has a sour odor and slimy texture.

What Color Would Frozen Ground Turkey Be if it’s Cooked?

Cooked ground turkey has a light-brown color. If the meat is still pink in some spots, it should be cooked longer until all bits have a uniform brown color.

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