Meat can only stay edible for a certain amount of time. It doesn’t matter whether you cook it or leave it raw, you’ll need to use meat quickly before it starts to perish.
Meat, like ground turkey, can spoil, even if it’s prepared and stored properly. This is why it’s a good idea to know how to tell if meat has gone bad (see also “How To Tell If Sour Cream Has Gone Bad“).
We’ll cover how to know if ground turkey has gone bad in this post, including how long the meat will keep in the refrigerator, what leads to the meat spoiling, and how to store ground turkey properly in the freezer.
Ground Turkey: The Basics
Ground turkey is the name for turkey meat which has been processed through a meat grinder to make it softer. Ground turkey can consist of solely dark or white meat, but it mostly involves a mixture of both varieties.
People concerned with heart health may use ground turkey in place of ground beef as it contains less fat.
In most cases, ground turkey blends contain 93% protein and 7% fat. However, blends made with more breast meat can be even leaner, containing just 1% of fat.
Has My Ground Turkey Spoiled?
Spoiled ground turkey will often smell bad, emitting a sulfur-like smell. The meat may feel sticky and change color, from pink to gray or brown.
We’ll cover how to tell if raw and cooked ground turkey has gone bad below (see also “How To Tell If Raw Chicken Has Gone Bad“).
Raw Ground Turkey
If raw ground turkey has gone bad, you’ll often notice a bad odor that’s like rotten eggs.
You can also look at the meat’s color to confirm. Fresh turkey should look peach or pale pink. If the meat is starting to look brown or gray, dispose of it immediately.
When raw ground turkey is fresh, it should have a light shine due to the moisture within the meat. It should feel moist, but if it feels and appears slimy and particularly sticky, this is a good sign that the meat has gone bad.
Cooked Ground Turkey
Like raw ground turkey, one of the signs that cooked ground turkey has spoiled is its smell. Cooked ground turkey can begin smelling sour when it’s stored in the fridge for too long.
Make sure that you dispose of the turkey once it starts to smell sour or excessively sweet.
Cooked ground turkey can also look and feel slimy when it’s gone off. It can also turn moldy and green if it’s stored in the fridge for a long period.
If you think your cooked ground turkey has spoiled, don’t be tempted to check and taste it! You can get sick after one taste of spoiled turkey meat, so always go with your first hunch.
How Long Can You Refrigerate Ground Turkey For?
Ground meat blends will expire sooner than complete muscle products, as a greater amount of the surface’s area comes into contact with air. This is why you should cook ground turkey within three days of purchasing it.
It’s better to purchase ground turkey as early as possible, ahead of time before you need it. Ideally, purchase the meat on the same day to ensure it’s fresh, but you can store it in the refrigerator the night before if necessary.
Cooked ground turkey has a longer shelf life compared to its raw form. This should keep in the fridge for between three and four days.
Check that your fridge’s temperature is under 40 degrees. If it’s hotter than this setting, the meat will enter the risk zone of 40 – 140 degrees, so it can go bad faster.
Meat is best kept in the back of the refrigerator, further from the door. This shelters the meat from warm air which passes through the fridge when it’s opened.
If your ground turkey is raw, keep it in the same packaging till it’s needed. If you have any leftovers, envelop them securely to reduce their contact with air.
How Long Can You Freeze Ground Turkey For?
You can keep the meat in the freezer for a longer time compared to the fridge. The sub-zero environment will stop bacteria from growing, which makes it safe to consume after defrosting.
Despite this, the meat’s quality can begin to decline when it’s been kept in the freezer for too long. Speaking of raw ground turkey, aim to remove it from the freezer, defrost and cook it for three-four months.
If the turkey has been cooked already, you’ll need to remove it from the freezer sooner than raw turkey, as the cold temperatures can make the turkey dry. Cooked ground turkey can be stored in the freezer for between two and three months.
How Does Ground Turkey Go Bad?
Time is one of the main factors that makes ground turkey spoil. Always look at the use-by date before you purchase the product. If the date has passed, throw the turkey out. It may have gone bad, even if it appears edible.
Aim to cook your ground turkey as soon as possible, though you can store the meat in the freezer if your plans change.
If you do this, remember that one pound of ground turkey needs between 12 and 24 hours to defrost in the fridge. Bear this in mind to avoid scheduling issues later on.
As mentioned before, your fridge should have a temperature under 40 degrees. Temperatures ranging from 40 to 140 degrees can make bacteria flourish, so it isn’t safe to eat meat that has been kept in this environment.
Air exposure can also make meat spoil. If ground turkey comes in contact with air, the ensuing amount of bacteria can be two times greater compared to meat kept in a secure container.
Can Cooking Ground Turkey Eliminate Bacteria?
You can remove any dangerous bacteria from fresh meat by cooking it correctly. However, this is only possible with fresh meat, as this won’t work if the turkey has already spoiled.
When meat has gone bad, the microorganisms and bacteria that form on the meat can generate harmful toxins.
These dangerous substances persist, even if the meat is cooked. Consuming this meat can lead to sickness, ranging from light stomach problems to chills, fever, and painful joints.
Essentially, always dispose of ground turkey, along with any other meat product, that you believe has gone bad.
Signs That Ground Turkey Has Cooked Properly
If you’re cooking ground turkey, make sure that you have an instant-read, trustworthy, meat thermometer close by. You’ll be using this to check that the meat has reached a minimum of 165 degrees.
Carryover cooking will make the meat’s temperature increase, so you can stop cooking at 160 degrees if you’re cooking meat loaf or turkey burgers.
Fully cooked turkey will turn from shiny and pink to opaque and white. You may see a tiny bit of pink in the center of a turkey burger, but this will be fine, provided that the meat has reached a safe temperature/
The Bottom Line
Ground turkey can go bad, just like any other cut of meat. Signs that ground turkey has spoiled include a foul odor, slimy texture, and brown or gray appearance.
You can store ground turkey in the fridge for later use, but make sure that you use them within three days to prevent the meat from spoiling. Make sure that you know what the signs of spoilage are to avoid getting sick in the future.
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