Can You Cook Frozen Ground Turkey?

It’s just one of those questions that seems to haunt you when you’re in the market for ground turkey. Can I cook frozen ground turkey? 

You might be wondering if it’s safe to do so, or if there are any drawbacks to using it straight out of the freezer. We’ll answer all of your most pressing questions below—and we’re also sharing our favorite recipes that take advantage of this convenient meat!

The short answer is yes. You can cook ground turkey that’s been frozen without thawing it first, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Read on to find out what they are.

Can You Cook Raw Frozen Turkey?

Whether or not you should thaw your ground turkey first has a lot to do with what you plan to make with it. Not just the recipe either, but how you’re going to cook it. Keep in mind that using a skillet, slow cooker, or air fryer is going to change the answer to this question if you want the best outcome. 

Most people recommended thawing most meat, including poultry before cooking it. We all forget sometimes and that doesn’t have to mean your dinner is a bust. 

When considering whether you should cook the ground turkey frozen consider the following:

  1. Cooking it from frozen will take longer. If you have a perfectly timed recipe for dinner, you’re going to want to factor in the extra time needed for the frozen meat. Consider around 50% more time than usual to cook it.

So, if you normally take 30 minutes to brown your ground turkey, you’ll need to take 45 minutes to brown your frozen ground turkey.

  1. Cutting the turkey into smaller pieces can be difficult. Make sure that you use the correct knife and safety precautions. 
  2. It’s perfectly fine to drop your frozen hunk of turkey into your slow cooker or pan. You’ll have to make sure that you check the slow cooker often and break up the meat as it thaws. 
  3. If your recipe calls for cooking the ground turkey in oil, you’ll want to consider thawing the ground first. Because it’s so easy to burn ground turkey as it defrosts you have to use water. You won’t achieve that caramelized flavor if you have to defrost your turkey in the pan first.

Ground turkey is a great lean protein option to use in many of your recipes. Substitute the ground pork or ground beef in almost any recipe for a low-fat version of your favorites, including burgers, meatballs, and tacos!

Take a little more care and pay more attention and your frozen ground turkey will suit you just fine. 

How Do You Cook Frozen Ground Turkey?

Skillet Method

Step 1

Place your unwrapped frozen turkey in a skillet with a little water. You’ll want just enough water to cover the bottom of the skillet. 

Step 2

Cover your skillet and bring the water to a simmer. This helps keep your turkey from burning and sticking. Turkey meat is on the drier side and can burn and stick easily. The cover helps trap the steam, speeding up the defrosting process.

Step 3

As your meat steams and your water simmers, use a kitchen utensil (this can be as simple as a spoon) and scrape away the meat that has already thawed and browned. This exposes the red, raw meat to the heat to thaw and cook.

Step 4

Continue scraping off the browned meat until the entire piece is thawed and browned. Add more water in small amounts as needed. You’ll be scraping the browned meat about every 3 to 5 minutes to complete the process. 

Step 5

Once the whole piece is defrosted you can add your other ingredients like peppers and onions. Let the water simmer down at this point so you don’t have soggy meat. 

Step 6

At this point, all your meat should be defrosted and you’ll continue to cook until done. Cook as you would if the ground turkey had been fresh and not frozen.

Instant Pot Method

With the popularity of the Instant Pot or other pressure cookers, they’re a great option for cooking frozen ground turkey where you don’t have to stand around and wait.

Step 1

Place an instant pot designed trivet in the bottom of the pot.

Step 2

If you haven’t already, unwrap your frozen ground turkey. 

This can be difficult sometimes depending on how the meat was wrapped. If you’re finding it difficult, run the turkey under warm water to help release it from the packaging. 

Step 3

Place the turkey in the pot and brush all sides with melted butter.

Step 4

Season the meat with your favorite seasonings or those suggested in your recipe

Step 5

Pour around a cup of chicken broth (or turkey if you can get it) into the bottom of the pot. Be careful adding the broth. You don’t want to pour it over the turkey as it will wash off all your seasonings. Pour it along the sides.

Step 6

Put on the lid and lock it. On manual cook on high for around 20 minutes. The time really depends on how much you’re cooking. When it’s done and you’ve released the pressure, you can remove the fluid and brown the turkey to perfection on the saute mode.

Oven Method

You can’t just toss frozen ground turkey in the oven. You’ll have to defrost it first. You can defrost it in the skillet or the microwave. Thawing it in the fridge is the best option, but also takes several hours. If you’re in a pinch, then use the microwave or cold water methods. 

Cold water method

Soaking the package in cold water takes around an hour to thaw. You’ll want to swap out your cold water at 30-minute intervals. You’re looking at about 30 minutes of thawing time per pound of ground turkey.

Microwave Method

If you don’t have the 30 minutes to an hour to cold thaw your ground turkey, then throw it in the microwave. It may not be the best method, but it’s the fastest. 

Using your microwave’s defrost setting or 30-50% power, microwave the ground for around 7-8 minutes. 

What’s the Best Frozen Ground Turkey Recipe?


Tacos are excellent with all sorts of protein, turkey included. Cook your ground turkey as you’d flavor your ground beef and enjoy the perfect tacos with a lighter meat.

Pasta Bake

Meat sauce is a common favorite when it comes to pasta and the perfect tomato sauce. Mix browned ground turkey into your favorite tomato sauce. Toss the pasta in your turkey meat sauce and put it in the baking dish. Cover with cheese and bake in the oven.


Ground turkey makes great meatballs if you know how to do it. Mix in your favorite spices and a little bit of liquid since turkey is a drier meat. Roll into ball shapes with your hands and off you go. 


While an excellent choice it’s also the most challenging use for ground turkey. Much like the meatballs, turkey doesn’t have a lot of fats to help hold it together in a particular shape. Adding an egg and bread crumbs is a great way to help it stick together as a burger. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should I defrost ground turkey?

The best and safest option according to the USDA is to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator overnight. This fridge defrost method can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours on average. Some have had good results in as little as 8 to 12 hours. 

Make sure to keep the ground turkey in its package and place it in a leakproof dish or you might end up with a mess in your fridge to clean up.

Can you cook ground turkey that’s not fully thawed?

Yes. It’s perfectly fine to cook fully frozen ground turkey or only partially frozen ground turkey. Make sure to adjust your planning to give more time to cook the meat as you’ll have to finish the defrosting process before cooking the meat. 

It’s important to take your time as grounded poultry needs to be thoroughly cooked for your health and safety.

How do you defrost ground turkey quickly?

The quickest way to defrost ground turkey is in the microwave. This isn’t the best way though. Placing the turkey in the microwave you can usually defrost the ground turkey in about 2 minutes per pound of meat. It’s best to do it as slowly as possible on defrost or a low setting so you don’t cook it too much ahead of time. 


Now that you know how to cook frozen ground turkey, it’s time to get started. 

It’s always recommended to thaw your meat, including poultry before you cook, but that’s not always an option for many reasons. Some people even think that ground meat cooks better for meals like tacos from a frozen form, it just takes longer. 

Take the necessary steps to do it properly and you won’t be disappointed in most cases. Remember, if you’re supposed to cook the ground turkey in oil, you’ll want to thaw your meat first so you can get that caramelized perfection for that recipe.