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Can You Freeze Ground Turkey?

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Wondering what to do with the ground turkey you just bought at the store and aren’t planning on cooking it for the next day or two? Freeze it! Freezing ground meats is a great way to extend the shelf life. With a couple of tips you can safely store and then defrost them when you are ready to use them. Ground turkey is a great lean meat to have on hand for quick and easy meals. 

The Ultimate Guide: Can You Freeze Ground Turkey? written over a picture of turkey lasagna soup in a white bowl.

When Can I Freeze Ground Turkey?

Knowing when to freeze ground turkey is important to maintaining its freshness and taste. Here are some guidelines on when to freeze ground turkey: 

Fresh Ground Turkey

Fresh ground raw turkey should be divided up into smaller portions and can be frozen right away! We recommend freezing in smaller portions that are the sizes you will need when you plan to cook. This helps to cut down on waste and also allows it to defrost faster than a larger chunk of ground meat. This tip is great especially for those larger packs of meat you can buy at stores like Costco and BJ’s Wholesale where it is enough meat for 2-3 meals. 

As long as it is stored properly, fresh ground turkey will usually last for up to 4 months in the freezer without any significant changes to the texture and taste. Be sure that your freezer is at the proper temperature and open as little as possible so it can maintain freshness longer. 

Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Meatballs close up with a bite taken out of one meatball showing the melty cheese inside
Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Meatballs

Cooked Ground Turkey

Cooked ground turkey can also be stored in the freezer. After cooking, allow it to cool completely then store in airtight freezer safe bags or containers in the freezer. Do not put hot turkey into the freezer. This can cause temperature changes in your freezer that will put nearby foods at risk of defrosting. 

Freezing cooked ground turkey meat is the best way to have cooked protein that is easy to add to meals on hand. It depends on the recipe, but usually cooked ground turkey that has been previously frozen can go right into a pan on the stove. 

Bowl of 3 Bean Turkey Chili with shredded cheddar cheese and broken tortilla chips on top.
Three Bean Turkey Chili

Tips for Properly Storing Ground Turkey

  • Be sure to freeze before the sell-by date or expiration date for the best quality. 
  • Remove the raw ground turkey from the original packaging you purchased it in and place it into appropriate storage containers. This includes an airtight container or zip lock freezer bags. 
  • Remove as much air as possible from the bags or containers before sealing. This will help keep freezer burn to a minimum. 
  • Label the containers or bags with the date you stored it in the freezer so you know when it it good until. Frozen ground turkey should be used within 3-4 months. 
  • Divide large amounts of meat into smaller portions. This way you can defrost only what you need when you are ready to use it. 
  • Do not refreeze defrosted meat. This can lead to growth of bacteria and may cause food poisoning. 

How to Tell if Ground Turkey Has Gone Bad

Do not freeze or use ground turkey that is showing signs of spoilage. This includes a slimy texture, well past its expiration date, has a sour smell or sour odor. Turkey that has gray patches is an indicator that the turkey is no longer good and it should be gotten rid of. 

Close up of turkey lasagna soup in a white bowl with a spoon next to it. Soup is topped with ricotta cheese and fresh parsley.
Turkey Lasagna Soup

Maintaining Quality and Safely Defrosting Frozen Ground Turkey

There are correct and incorrect ways to defrost ground turkey. You will want to defrost it the safest way to avoid growing any harmful bacteria or sacrificing the quality of the meat:

Refrigerator

The best method is to move frozen ground turkey into the refrigerator the day before you plan to cook it. This will give the frozen meat enough time to defrost for the next day. 

Cold Water Bath

Place container or bag of frozen ground turkey into the sink with COLD water.  Meat will defrost in 1-3 hours this way. 

Microwave

Use the defrost setting on your microwave. While this is my least favorite method sometimes you just have to do it. Be sure that if you use a freezer safe bag you remove it from the bag and place on a microwave-safe plate to defrost. The microwave method may cause some pieces of meat around the edges to cook but it is still a safe method to use. 

Do not thaw ground turkey meat at room temperature.

This gives a higher risk of bacterial growth and foodborne illness. Before cooking with ground turkey that was previously frozen be sure to check it for signs of storage such as: a slimy texture, gray patches or sour smell or sour odor. Raw meat that has gone bad should be disposed of and not cooked with. 

Turkey meatloaf sliced on a black plate. Once slice is turned to show the moist inside of the meatloaf.
Quick and Easy Turkey Meatloaf

How Long Can I Freeze Ground Turkey?

As long as ground turkey is stored in an airtight freezer safe bag it should last 3-4 months in a freezer. If you are not sure if your turkey is still good, look for signs of spoilage that we listed above.

Turkey Bulgogi Meatballs on top of rice, broccoli and carrots. Meatballs are sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Turkey Bulgogi Meatballs

We hope this Ultimate Guide has answered all of your questions regarding safely freezing and thawing ground turkey. Be sure to follow these rules to store cooked or uncooked ground turkey and extend its storage period as well as have on hand for delicious meals. Freezing ground turkey is easy to do and is an easy way to keep your grocery budget down by creating less waste. 

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