How to Cook Ground Turkey: On the Stove and Other Tips

Ground turkey is a versatile and nutrient-dense ingredient that fits into many different recipes.
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If you're looking to include more lean protein in your diet, you might be one of the many of us wondering how to cook ground turkey. This ground meat can be used in many of the same recipes that ground beef is used for, and it may be a more nutritious alternative.

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Cooking ground turkey is similar to ground beef, but because it has less fat, you run the risk of your meat drying out during cooking. Luckily, there are a few tried-and-true tips and ways to cook ground turkey that will ensure a delicious result. We spoke to a chef for the most helpful secrets.

What Are the Benefits of Ground Turkey?

Ground turkey is an extremely versatile food that fits well into so many recipes. It typically costs less than ground beef in grocery stores, so it can be a budget-friendly menu option.

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Ground turkey is also high in protein, B vitamins and amino acids — nutrients your body needs to function. And if you're trying to limit red meat in your diet, ground turkey is a fine replacement for beef in recipes like hamburgers, tacos and meat sauce.

Ground beef is high in saturated fat, and if you have a heart condition such as heart disease or high cholesterol, it may be useful to cut down, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). You can buy lean ground turkey that is made up of 95 percent lean meat and 5 percent fat, and turkey that is 99 percent lean and 1 percent fat. Always check your food labels for specific nutrition info.

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What Is the Best Way to Cook Ground Turkey?

There are different ways to cook ground turkey, but whichever method you choose, adding a bit of oil, such as olive oil, will help the turkey stay moist during cooking. Ground turkey recipes are also customizable, so you can flavor them with whatever seasonings and additions you prefer, or of course, a simple sprinkling of salt and pepper.

It's possible to slow cook ground turkey in a slow cooker if you're making recipes like soup or stew, but this can take a few hours. When you're short on time but want to throw together a delicious and nutritious meal, the best way to cook ground turkey is on the stove or in the oven.

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Tip

Cook ground turkey until the temperature of the meat reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, per the USDA. Use a meat thermometer to check.

How to Cook Ground Turkey on the Stove

Things You'll Need

  • 1 pound ground turkey

  • Large skillet

  • Spatula or cooking spoon

  • Cooking oil, such as olive oil

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Other seasonings, to taste

  • Chopped veggies of choice, such as onions and peppers (optional)

"Stovetop is the best way to cook ground turkey, with a bit of oil, vegetables and seasoning," says Chef Snoop Dillard of Escobar. He recommends you start with a pound of ground turkey and cook it on the stovetop with chopped yellow onions and red, yellow and green peppers.

As for how long to cook ground turkey on the stove, you'll want to do it for about 13 to 18 minutes. You'll know it's done when the meat is no longer pink, or it reaches a temperature of 165 F.

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Here, we share Dillard's step-by-step method for cooking ground turkey on the stove.

  1. Heat a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat.
  2. When the oil starts to glisten, add the ground turkey to the skillet, sauteing and breaking it apart with a spatula or spoon. Cook, turning, for 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Season the ground turkey with any seasonings you like. You can try salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder. Be aware that many commercially prepared seasonings are high in sodium.
  4. Add in any vegetables you're using at this time, such as half a chopped onion or some chopped peppers.
  5. Combine all the ingredients and let it cook for 10 to 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally until the meat is no longer pink or the temperature reaches 165 F.
  6. Add the turkey crumbles to chili, tacos, meat sauce or minestrone soup, or use them for the base for sloppy joes.

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Tip

To make ground turkey sloppy joes, follow the recipe above and add cooked, chopped onions, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and a dash of hot sauce to the cooking pan, and heat all the ingredients thoroughly before serving it over hamburger buns.

Another choice is to make your own patties and cook turkey burgers on the stove.

How to Cook Ground Turkey in the Oven

Things You'll Need

  • 1 pound ground turkey

  • Large bowl

  • Baking dish

  • Oil, such as olive oil

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Other seasonings, to taste

  • Chopped veggies of choice, such as onions and peppers (optional)

Another, less-involved option is to cook ground turkey in the oven, Dillard says. When you cook ground turkey in the oven, you don't have to stand over the stove stirring it until it's done. Rather, just add it to a greased baking dish, put the dish in the oven, and your ground turkey is cooked in as little as 15 minutes.

Here's how to do it, according to Dillard:

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  1. Preheat your oven to 375 F.
  2. Put the ground turkey meat in a large bowl and season it with salt, pepper, and other seasonings you like.
  3. Add any chopped vegetables you're using, such as half a chopped onion and some chopped peppers.
  4. Add one to two tablespoons of oil such as olive oil to the bowl and combine all the ingredients well. The oil will help keep the meat moist during cooking.
  5. Put the seasoned ground turkey into your baking dish and put the dish in the oven for 13 to 15 minutes. You'll know it's done when the meat is no longer pink or temperature reads 165 F.

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Recipes for Ground Turkey You Need to Try

If you're excited about all the ground turkey recipes you can make now that you know how to cook it, here are some other options to put on your weeknight dinner menu.

Tips for Cooking Ground Turkey

When you want to cook ground turkey for a quick weeknight meal, it's important that you do a couple of things to make sure the meat comes out just right. Follow the tips below from Dillard that will help you achieve the best ground turkey for any recipe you're making.

Season It Well

Season ground turkey with any of your favorite seasonings to add maximum flavor to the end result. "Make sure the ground turkey has the proper seasonings, according to your own tastes," Dillard says.

Dillard says you can season ground turkey with:

  • Chili powder
  • Garlic salt
  • Garlic power
  • Fresh herbs, such as cilantro

Don't Let It Dry Out

If you're worried about ground turkey drying out, you can baste it while it cooks. Spoon melted butter, stock, meat drippings or some other kind of liquid onto the ground turkey as it's cooking, and it will soak up all the moisture and flavors.

Use Oil

Using oil like olive oil is ideal for cooking ground turkey. "This helps cook the ground turkey more thoroughly, adds a bit of flavor and stops it from sticking to the pan," Dillard says.

Don't Rinse It

Many people wonder if they have to wash meat before cooking it. In the case of ground turkey, the answer is no. In fact, you should avoid rinsing ground turkey — this can actually cause cross-contamination. "Rinsing the ground turkey isn't necessary, as bacteria can spread to other foods and surfaces," Dillard says.

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