Ground turkey is a healthy and delicious alternative to beef, but knowing how long to cook it can be a bit tricky. Cook it for too long, and it can become dry and tough, but not long enough, and it can be undercooked and potentially dangerous to consume.
So, how long should you cook ground turkey? This article will detail the ideal cooking times for ground turkey to help you achieve a juicy, flavorful, and safe dish every time whether you’re making tacos, meatballs or burgers.
Ground turkey basics
Ground turkey is a popular choice for those who are looking for a white meat alternative to ground beef. With fewer calories and fat, it’s a great option when looking to keep dishes lighter.
Like chicken, ground turkey has two different meat types: dark meat and white meat. Dark turkey meat comes from the legs and thighs of the turkey while the white meat is primarily from the breasts.
Dark turkey meat contains more fat and calories than the white meat but is also more flavorful because of this.
Both ground varieties are typically sold in any grocery store and since cooking time or methods are the same, choose the one that makes the most sense for your dish.
How to cook ground turkey
Before getting into how long to cook ground turkey, let’s review the best way to cook the ground meat.
Like any ground meat, the easiest and fastest way to cook ground turkey is in a skillet on the stove top.
Preheat a skillet with a cooking oil of your choosing over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the ground turkey to the pan. Using either a wooden spoon, spatula or a ground meat chopper, start to break up the turkey into smaller pieces while it browns.
Continue to cook the turkey until all the small pieces are browned and it has released any retained water. During the cooking process, the meat will turn from a pinkish color to a dull brownish gray. When there’s no pink remaining, the ground turkey is fully cooked.
If there’s excess water in the pan once the turkey is almost fully cooked, drain it in the sink then return the pan to the heat.
At this point, the ground meat can be seasoned however you desire. Stir in the seasoning and continue cooking until crispy bits form on the edges of the turkey pieces.
How long does ground turkey take to cook?
Ground turkey can be cooked either on the stove top or in the oven. If you’re making burgers, of course on the grill too. How long it takes to cook the ground turkey will depend on the method.
Stove top cooking
Once the ground turkey is added to a hot skillet, it should take about four to five minutes to cook thoroughly.
Start by breaking up the meat into larger chunks with a spatula for about one minute. Cook the turkey for an additional two minutes until starting to turn brown then continue breaking into smaller pieces for another one to two minutes until fully cooked.
Turkey is cooked once the internal temperature reaches 165°F just like chicken. Testing this with ground meat, however, is nearly impossible with a meat thermometer. Using visual cues such as the meat turning a light gray/brown color with no pink remaining is a sign the turkey is fully cooked and safe to eat.
While the oven takes longer than the stove top method, it’s very hands off and easy to do.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the ground turkey in a greased baking dish with desired seasonings. No need to break up the meat at this point.
Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the ground meat has turned gray/brown. Remove from the oven, break into pieces as desired and serve.
Cooking turkey on the grill
If you choose to cook ground turkey on the grill, it’ll likely be in the form of a turkey burger. Much like chicken burgers, the best way to gauge the doneness of ground turkey meat on the grill is using an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the burger. Ground turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Depending on the size of the burger, this can take anywhere from 7-12 minutes over a medium-high flame.
How to know when ground turkey is overcooked
While you certainly don’t want to undercook ground turkey, overcooking it is also a concern.
Overcooked turkey meat is tough, crumbly and dry. Whether cooking on the stove top, oven or grill, it’s important to keep a close watch on the turkey meat as it cooks. Pulling it right after the last residual pink is gone is key to not overcooking ground turkey.
Best tips for cooking ground turkey
As a frequent swap for ground beef, it’s crucial to know the best tips and tricks for the juiciest turkey meat that you can safely eat.
- Season well – turkey and chicken are both pretty bland tasting meats without seasoning. Don’t be scared to season the heck out of the ground meat no matter what you’re making with it.
- Use oil when cooking – unlike beef, the dryer nature of ground turkey needs either oil or butter in the pan to properly brown without sticking and drying out. The extra fat helps provide flavor as well.
- Don’t let it get dried out – if during the cooking process, the turkey looks like it’s drying out, add broth to the pan to help it stay moist.
Recipes to try with ground turkey
There are all sorts of delicious dishes that ground turkey can be used for.
Make a turkey burger bowl for an easy weeknight dinner. Don’t skip the special sauce! Spicy turkey chili or turkey chili pie are two great cozy dinner options. Use it in tacos or make burgers on the grill for classic recipes with a lighter twist.
For breakfast, these ground chicken sausage patties can be made with ground turkey meat instead for a protein-packed start to the day.
Turkey can be a delicious, juicy and flavorful option when cooked properly. Knowing how long to cook to cook ground turkey before starting is an important part of the process. For best results, make sure to not overcook the meat and remember to season well. In as little as five minutes, ground turkey can be fully cooked and ready to eat.
If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! I’d love to know how it goes. Leave a comment below if you have any questions. Tag @runningtothekitchen on Instagram & Facebook.
Basic Seasoned Ground Turkey Recipe
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Place the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Once hot, add the ground turkey to the pan and break into large pieces using a spatula or meat chopper for 1 minute.
- Cook until starting to brown, about 2 minutes.
- Continue cooking and breaking into smaller pieces for another 1-2 minutes until meat turns grayish/brown and there is no pink remaining.
- Drain any excess water from the pan, return to the stove over low heat and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
- Stir to combine, turn off heat and serve as desired.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Watch the web story – How to Cook the Juiciest Ground Turkey.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.