Last Updated on: 21st October 2022, 10:53 pm
Ground turkey can be more delicious than regular meat because it becomes more tender and can be used in different recipes like making turkey burgers, tacos, etc.
but the real cliche is how to know when ground turkey is done.
It is more complicated than it sounds because it requires years of experience to tell if the ground turkey is done by just having a glance at it.
But if you are just starting with cooking ground meat or turkey specifically, then you may need to examine its different aspects to know if it’s done.
I personally have found myself in this situation many times when starting out.
But after years of experience, it has now become much easier to decide if my ground turkey is done yet or not.
Today I am going to boil down my experience in this article to make sure you never go wrong with this. Let’s get started.
Check ground turkey for doneness.
Ground turkey is more complex than a chunk of whole turkey.
In the case of determining its doneness, because it’s in the form of tiny particles, and you have to estimate the doneness in such a way that every bit of it should be cooked perfectly.
You need to be really careful about deciding if the ground turkey is done or not before eating it.
Eating both undercooked or overcooked ground turkey is hazardous to your health and can lead to dangerous outcomes.
So it’s better to be safe than sorry.
To keep yourself at the safe end, you need to prioritize the temperature of ground turkey over other aspects, because if the temperature of turkey is appropriate, then it means two things: it’s cooked and it’s safe to eat.
You can tell if the ground turkey is done or not by taking into account its temperature, physical appearance, and several other factors to make sure the decision is accurate.
Although telling the doneness of ground turkey by appearance may take you years to master,
Examine the appearance
If you are done cooking the ground turkey and are not sure if it’s safe to eat it or not, then the first thing you need to analyze is the appearance of the ground turkey.
An expert pitmaster can easily differentiate between something being done or not by just having a glance.
It’s not rocket science, but it can take you some practice to master.
Although, if you have been eating turkey and chicken for enough time, you should be able to differentiate a cooked turkey from an uncooked one on the basis of appearance.
To get into specifications, I personally like to take into account two things; the color of the turkey and its texture.
These might not give you an exact answer to check if the ground turkey is done, but they can set the stage for further analysis.
In terms of the color of turkey, it’s sort of pink when ground turkey is raw. It is because of different meat proteins and the moisture present within the turkey.
The color changes to opaque or a light brown when the turkey is done.
So if you are analyzing patties or meatballs of ground turkey, then you should consider seeing the color.
If the color is white or brownish, then you can assume that the turkey has been exposed to enough heat to be cooked properly.
The color change is due to the evaporation of the moisture present within the turkey. So it will not evaporate until the turkey is exposed to higher temperatures.
If the ground turkey is brownish, then you can say that the turkey is safe to eat and most of the pathogens have been killed.
Ground turkey’s texture
Telling the doneness of ground turkey by its texture is more complex than telling the doneness of whole turkey.
The reason is that you can tell if a whole turkey is done or not by simply palpating the surface of the turkey.
But in the case of ground turkey, you will have to be more careful about judging it on the basis of its color because the chunks on the internal side of the patties might not have absorbed enough heat to get cooked.
But if you have been doing it for some time, then you can tell if the turkey is done or not by pressing the surface of the patties or taking off a part of the turkey and seeing if it’s done or not.
But don’t panic here, if you are not familiar with this. We have several other factors to test the doneness of the turkey.
Check the internal temperature
Now that you have analyzed the appearance of your ground turkey, you should probably already have made up your mind as to whether the turkey is done or not.
But don’t forget to take the temperature of the turkey into account before making your final decision.
The appearance of ground turkey gives us an overview of if the turkey has been exposed to heat or not, but make sure to check the internal temperature to verify that the temperature was high enough to kill the pathogens.
It is normal for ground turkey to have pathogens inside it when it’s raw. But after cooking, if the turkey is done, we expect that the pathogens have been killed.
These pathogens are hazardous to health if consumed.
According to industry experts, the ground turkey should have an internal temperature of 165°F for the killing of pathogens.
You can check the internal temperature by poking the probe of an instant thermometer into your ground turkey.
If you have the ground turkey in the form of patties, then make sure to take the patties from the smoker or grill whatever you are cooking in and insert the probe from the side of the patties into the central area.
You should make sure to take patties off the grill because the rack temperature can affect the measurements and the reading can become faulty.
While cooking the turkey in a pan requires stirring to separate each chunk, you should consider pouring the turkey into a dish and checking the temperature.
But if the ground turkey is in the form of patties, it is more accurate and easy to measure the temperature.
Speaking of accuracy, you should consider using a good quality thermometer to measure the internal temperature, which can provide an accurate reading of the internal temperature.
Moreover, consider calibrating it from time to time to make sure you are getting an accurate reading.
You should keep in mind that there are some cases in which the internal temperature of a turkey will not reach 165°F.
The most common of these is low fat content inside the ground turkey, because of which turkey can dry out if heated to higher temperatures.
In this case, you should consider adding some butter or oil along with the ground turkey to make sure it gets to 165°F.
It’s really important to heat up the ground turkey to higher temperatures because heat can kill the pathogens present inside the ground turkey.
Check the time
If you have examined the ground turkey by its internal temperature and appearance, you should probably have a clear understanding of whether your ground turkey is done yet or not.
If the temperature is below 165°F, then you should place it back into the smoker.
Turkey is usually considered done when its temperature reaches around 190 Fahrenheit. But around 165°F , turkey can stall for few hours. stall usually depends on several factors . here is guide on does a turkey stall when smoking
But if the internal temperature of ground turkey is appropriate for the killing of bacteria and pathogens, then I usually check if it has been smoked for enough time.
In the case of smoking, it’s better for appropriate absorption of smoke.
In the case of baking or frying, you should make sure that ground turkey has been cooked for at least 10–20 minutes to make sure it has been cooked properly.
By checking the cooking time, you can guess if it has been done yet or not.
Check the color of the meat juices
After you have checked if enough time has passed for ground turkey to cook perfectly, you should probably notice that the vagueness is decreasing and you are getting closer to the exact answer.
The next feature to analyze is the meat juices.
Meat juices are the fluids present within the turkey which contribute to the enhancement of flavor. These fluids also help the turkey avoid drying out during cooking.
Although they are present in traces in ground turkey, they can still be useful to decide if the turkey is done or not.
If the ground turkey is cooked in the form of patties, then you have a good chance that you can find some meat juices.
To check, you should take a toothpick and poke the meat patties in the center or thickest part.
It will result in the seeping of some meat juices. If the meat juices are clear, then that’s an aha! At that moment, there is a high chance that your ground turkey is done.
If meat juices are pink, then the ground turkey can be uncooked.
Use your experience
Finally, you should examine ground turkey with your intuition based on your experience.
You should have made a clear decision based on previous analysis, but I would advise you to re-evaluate everything based on your personal situation and experience.
You can try touching and smelling the turkey to check for doneness. A raw turkey will have a distinct flavor just like a raw chicken.
While If it’s done that, it would have the smell of flavors and doneness. If you are still unsure, then you can consider placing your patties into the oven to make sure the pathogens are killed before eating to minimize the risk.
Can the color still be pink if turkey is done?
You might remember that I advised you not to make a decision of doneness solely based on the color of ground turkey.
Here is why. Pink ground turkey can be cooked perfectly!It usually occurs if the ground turkey doesn’t have enough fat.
So if you are cooking turkey, then you should consider having some fat content inside it. Or you can add some butter or cheese to enhance its flavor.
Because turkey has lean meat, it might lack fat. Due to this, it might not take much time to reach the desired internal temperature.
What to do if my ground turkey is undercooked ?
If your ground turkey is undercooked, then you should consider placing it back into the smoker for a while.
Eating undercooked ground turkey can result in diarrhea, vomiting, and even typhoid fever. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Ground turkey needs to be cooked at least 165°F to make sure that it doesn’t contain any pathogens. although it may take more time and effort to get it done.
But it will be worth the effort because it will minimize the health risk.
What happens if you eat undercooked ground turkey?
Eating undercooked ground turkey is really harmful for your health because it can contain several hazardous microorganisms, especially bacteria.
These bacteria can result in diarrhea, vomiting, and even typhoid fever if the turkey is not cooked properly.
What happens if you eat overcooked ground turkey?
Eating overcooked turkey is as hazardous as eating undercooked turkey. Overcooking can lead to the drying or even charring of ground turkey.
Charring is really dangerous for your health and is often associated with stomach cancer.
The Final Verdict
It is not rocket science to tell if the ground turkey is done or not if you are using a thermometer.
Although it will require some practice, you can master it after a few tries. But you should make sure that you are using an accurate thermometer by calibrating it from time to time.
You should consider evaluating the appearance and temperature carefully before making any decision.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the internal temperature of ground turkey should be around 165°F to make sure it doesn’t contain any pathogens and it’s safe to eat.
if you are interested in digging deeper into checking doneness of turkry ,then don’t forget read our article on how to tell if turkey breast is done without thermometer
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