How to Know When Ground Turkey is Done: The Top Techniques

September 22, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Ground turkey is done when the internal temperature registers at 165 F. If you aren’t using a thermometer, then pay attention to the cooking time or make sure that the ground turkey has a brownish color.

If I’m being honest, it is difficult for me to tell when ground turkey is done too. If I hadn’t learned how to check for doneness the right way in culinary school, I would probably still be lost. Now, that I know the ropes, though, I am more than willing to share them with you.

In this post I will show you how to know when ground turkey is done – I will also provide some other tips to show you how to cook ground turkey properly!

how to know when ground turkey is done

How Do You Know When Turkey Meat is Cooked?

The best way to know that the ground turkey meat is cooked is to check the temperature using a meat thermometer.

Ground turkey meat is considered fully cooked when the internal temperature registers at 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that depending on what you are cooking, each section of the dish that contains the ground turkey meat should register at this temperature.

You can then take it off the heat.

How to Check the Internal Temp When Cooking Ground Turkey?

If you are cooking turkey burgers, turkey meatloaf, or turkey meatballs, the same method can be applied.

Insert the thermometer into thickest part of the patty. Don’t go all the way through, though. Stop in the middle of the patty and wait a few seconds. The temperature will then be displayed.

If you are browning or cooking ground turkey in a pan without forming it into a shape, then things can get a little tricky.

Still, find the largest chunk of ground turkey and place the tip of the thermometer into it. Make sure that the tip is not touching the pan or too close to the surface of the pan. Otherwise, you will get a false reading.

How Can You Tell If Ground Turkey is Done Without a Thermometer?

If you are cooking raw ground turkey in the form of turkey burgers, turkey meatloaf, or turkey meatballs, I would strongly recommend that you use a meat thermometer.

It is only if you are cooking or frying loose ground turkey that I would say that you can get away with eyeballing the doneness.

Despite this, I am going to show you how to know when ground turkey is done without a thermometer:

Keep an Eye on the Cooking Time

It is possible to check if the ground turkey meat is done based on the cooking time. However, I would suggest that you merely use this as a guideline backed up by a thermometer.


How long does it take to cook ground turkey?

Here is a breakdown of the average cooking times for different forms of ground turkey:

  • Browning or cooking ground turkey in a pan: 13 to 16 minutes
  • Grill turkey patties: 5 to 6 minutes on each side
  • Turkey meatballs in the oven: 20 minutes
  • Turkey meatballs on the stovetop: 10 to 15 minutes
  • Turkey meatloaf in the oven: 45 to 50 minutes or according to ground turkey recipes

Remember that there are a lot variations to consider when you cook ground turkey according to time. This includes the cooking method, the temperature that you are cooking at, and the size and width of the ground turkey dish.

This is why you should only use the time as a guideline.

Cooking Ground Turkey on the Stove

Based on Appearance

The other thing that you could do is to use your eyes to determine if the ground turkey is done or not.

This is easiest to do if you brown or cook ground turkey in a pan in its loose form. As the lumps are smaller, it is easier to know if the ground turkey is cooked all the way through.

As you cook ground turkey, it will progress from pink or reddish color to translucent appearance and then white or brownish color. The more cooked it is, the browner it will get.

When most of the portion is white or brown, then you have fully cooked ground turkey.

When it comes to turkey burgers, meatballs, and meatloaf, then you have to use time as a guideline. When they are close to being done according to the cooking time, you can then check the ground turkey.

For a turkey burger, gently pierce the thickest part of the patty with a knife. Then, check the color of the juices. If they are still pink, then the meat is undercooked. If the juices are clear, then the burger is ready to eat.

I would advise against creating too big of a tear or hole in the burger. If you do, you release a lot of the juices and if you have to put the patties back on the grill again, then there is a good chance that they are going to dry out.

The same technique can be used with meatballs.

As for turkey meatloaf, press a fork into the loaf when it is close to the end of its cooking time. If you don’t notice much resistance, then the meatloaf is done.

What About If Ground Turkey is a Little Pink?

Contrary to popular belief, pink doesn’t always mean undercooked ground turkey. You can have fully cooked ground turkey that is still slightly pink.

Keep in mind that this area should be small – just a few pink spots here and there. If large sections of the ground turkey is still pink, then it needs to be cooked for longer.

Related Reading

The Importance of Well Cooked Ground Turkey

Now, I can hear you asking – what is all this fuss about using a thermometer to check the temperature of ground turkey? Why can’t you use old fashioned methods?

Well, this is all due to the possibility of food poisoning. You can technically get sick from eating any kind of meat. However, this risk is far higher with ground turkey, ground beef, and any ground meat really.

This is because if there is any kind of bacteria on the grinding equipment used at the factory, then this bacteria is ground throughout the entire surface of the raw ground turkey. Due to this, there is a much higher chance of getting sick.

However, at an internal temperature of 165 F, the chances of food poisoning reduce drastically. Since it is best not to take a chance, always try to use a meat thermometer when cooking fresh ground turkey.

As an added bonus, if you do use a thermometer, you also reduce the chances of ending up with dried out, overcooked ground turkey. So, really, it is a win-win situation all around.

As a side note, it is just as important to store ground turkey properly. Keep it sealed tightly, in the refrigerator for up to a day after brining it home. If you wish to store it longer than that, freeze the ground turkey.

Turkey Meatballs

Tips for Cooking Ground Turkey Properly

Here are all the guidelines that you can rely on to ensure that your ground turkey is cooked to perfection each and every time:

Defrost Ground Turkey Completely

First things first, make sure that if you are using frozen ground turkey you thaw it out completely. It is best to do this by leaving the meat in the refrigerator until it is thawed out.

Create Uniform Shapes

If you are making patties or meatballs, make sure that each one is close to the others in shape and size. To ensure this, use a measuring spoon to add a certain amount of the meat to each patty or ball that is being shaped.

In doing so, each portion will cook at a similar rate.

In case you are browning the meat, then try to break it down into the smallest pieces possible. As an added bonus, this will make sure that the ground turkey is cooked faster too.

Use a Lower Temperature

Yes, cooking the meat at a higher temperature can make it cook faster but this doesn’t mean that the ground turkey is cooked all the way through.

The high heat may be burning the outside but the center may still be undercooked.

Going slower helps to reduce this problem. Another reason to do this is to prevent the turkey from drying out – remember there is very little moisture in this meat. Cook it low and slow and the ground turkey taste will be far superior.

Use a Thermometer

I have said it before but it bears repeating – always use a thermometer to check the internal temp when cooking meat of any kind.

When the internal temperature registers at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, then it is safe to take the meat off the heat.

Let It Rest

Don’t eat ground turkey right away – instead, let it rest for a few minutes once it has been taken off the heat.

This allows it to reabsorb any lost juices.

Ground turkey fillet

Wrapping It Up

Now you know all about how to know when ground turkey is cooked all the way through. This makes it a lot easier for you to create safer, healthier, and better tasting meals!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. Pitmaster Central is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon (.com,, .ca etc) and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Keep Reading
Copyright 2024 Pitmaster Central, all rights reserved.