To thaw ground turkey, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) says you can choose one of three ways: in the refrigerator, cold water or in the microwave. If you need to defrost turkey fast, the microwave is the way to go.
Thawing Ground Turkey
There are a wide variety of frozen ground turkey recipes to choose from out there, but most, if not all, will call for you to start with thawed ground turkey, since frozen will be harder to cook evenly and will take longer.
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If you'd planned on having ground turkey for dinner but forgot to put it in the fridge last night you could put the turkey in cold water for at least an hour. If you don't have the time to wait for the cold water to do its job, the microwave will quickly thaw the ground turkey so you can use it right away.
According to the USDA FSIS, you should cook any food that you've thawed in the microwave right away because the food may become warm enough to start cooking, which brings it to the "danger zone" (between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit) in which bacteria start to breed.
How to Defrost Ground Turkey
If you want to defrost ground turkey in the microwave, pay close attention to it because you do not want the meat to start cooking.
According to Michigan State University Extension, you should remove the ground turkey from the package because the packaging materials are not heat resistant at high temperatures. Place it on a microwave-safe plate and cover.
You can use the defrost feature on your microwave, either based on the weight of the food or the time you'd like the cycle to run. Generally, you can expect to thaw ground turkey in seven to eight minutes per pound, depending on your microwave's wattage and the size and thickness of the meat.
If your microwave does not have a defrost feature, you can set the power level to 30 percent, which is what the defrost function generally does. If your microwave does not constantly turn the food during the thawing process, you should stop and turn the food halfway through the process to promote even thawing.
Cook the meat immediately. FoodSafety.gov says it is fully cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 F, regardless of what any frozen ground turkey recipes may indicate.
Ground Turkey vs. Ground Beef
The American Heart Association says that, in general, red meats have more saturated fat than chicken or fish. Saturated fats may raise your cholesterol and worsen heart disease. The association recommends eating no more than 5.5 ounces per day of cooked fish, shellfish or poultry without the skin or lean meats with visible fat trimmed.
According to the USDA, a 4-ounce serving of 93 percent lean/7 percent fat raw ground beef contains 172 calories, 23.6 grams of protein and 7.91 grams of fat, whereas a 4-ounce serving of raw ground turkey with the same ratio of lean to fat contains 170 calories, 21.2 grams of protein and 9.42 grams of fat. Nutritionally, the two are virtually the same.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "The Big Thaw — Safe Defrosting Methods — for Consumers"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Danger Zone"
- Michigan State University Extension: "Safe Microwave Defrosting"
- FoodSafety.gov: "Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures Charts"
- American Heart Association: "Meat, Poultry, and Fish: Picking Healthy Proteins"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Turkey, Ground, 93% Lean, 7% Fat, Raw"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Beef, Ground, 93% Lean, 7% Fat, Raw"