How to Tell If a Turkey Burger is Done: Ultimate Explainer

September 22, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton
Edited by John Smits 

The best way to tell if a turkey burger is done is by checking the internal temperature. A fully cooked turkey burger is done at 165°F. Touch, the color of juices, and time are other inferior methods to tell if a turkey burger is done or not.

Burgers were one of the first things I learned to cook on a grill. While I love a hamburger, it’s not the healthiest option. Turkey burgers to the rescue! I grill up turkey burgers almost every week, and you better believe I make a darn good one.

In this post, I will show you how to tell if a turkey burger is done. I’m dropping my favorite tips and tricks, too. Let’s begin!

How to Tell if a Turkey Burger is Done

How to Know When Turkey Burgers Are Done?

Here are the top tests that you can use to detect when your turkey burger is done:

Use An Instant-Read Thermometer

Not only is this my top tip for knowing when a turkey burger is done, but I would also argue that this is the only way to check doneness!

According to the USDA, a turkey burger is cooked all the way through when the internal temperature reaches 165°F. At this point, it is safe to eat.

This is where a meat thermometer comes in place. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the patty. Then, check the temperature. If the burger is reading 165°F, then the meat can be taken off the grill – it’s ready to eat.

So, why is this my favorite way of checking that turkey patties are fully cooked? For one thing, it is the most accurate method! As long as the center of the patty registers 165°F, you can have peace of mind knowing there is not a single undercooked turkey burger in your midst – no more guesswork!

I also like the fact that with this method, you do minimal damage to the turkey burgers. Just a small poke. The burger remains whole right to the end.

I know that a lot of people feel that a food thermometer can be an unnecessary investment, but this isn’t the case at all. Just one instant-read thermometer can improve how you cook all your meat! I promise. A good thermometer will level up all your cooking and ensure that all your meats are cooked to temperature. Buy one. 

The Thermapen is popular among chefs and BBQ nerds. It’s pricey but hyper-accurate. It’ll also last a long time.

Roast Turkey with Meat Thermometer

The Juice Test

How do you tell if a turkey burger is done without a thermometer? Try the juice test:

For this test, you slice or pierce the thickest part of the patty. Then, look at the juices that come out – what color are they?

If the juices run clear, then it means that the turkey burger is done. If the juices are pink, then the burger needs to be cooked for a bit longer, I would check on it every two minutes until the juice is clear.

If the juices released are red, though, then there is a long way to go until the turkey burger is done. You may want to check on the burger in three minutes or so.

I would recommend only running this test closer to the end of the cooking time. If you have to keep slicing open your turkey burgers every few minutes, you’re releasing juices. That means your burger will be more dry.

The Touch Method

As the name suggests, this involves placing a finger on each of the turkey burgers. Once again, make sure to do this on the widest part of the patty. Wash your hands first!

If the meat beneath your finger is firm and warm, then the turkey burger is close to being cooked through. However, if it is soft and cool, then you need to cook the burger for longer.

If the texture is very firm and the temperature is hot, then the turkey burger is likely done.

This method is tricky and takes some practice. I would suggest also slicing into the middle of the patty and checking the color of the juice.

Time Test

Last but not least, you can determine if your turkey burger is ready to eat based on cooking time.

When cooked over medium heat (350°F) on a grill or stove, a turkey burger should be heated for 5 to 6 minutes on either side. This time is approximate and depends on the thickness and weight of the burgers. Confirm the turkey burger is done by seeing if the juices run clear.

The time test, juice test, and touch test are all inferior methods to a thermometer. They are old-school relics from the days when instant-read thermometers were not reliable or widely available. The only doneness test I run when I cook is with a thermometer. I suggest you buy one and do the same. Your friends and family will thank you. So will your tastebuds.

Can Turkey Burger Be a Little Pink?

You may notice that despite what the meat thermometer says and what the juices may indicate, the center of your turkey burger remains slightly pink.

What does it mean? Is the ground turkey still undercooked?

Not necessarily! As long as you can verify the internal temperature or see that the juices are clear, then there is no need to worry. A little pink or a pinkish hue is just fine.

Related Reading

Gourmet Turkey Burger

In case you are wondering:

How can you tell if ground turkey is undercooked?

If the meat looks more red or reddish pink in the middle, then I would let it cook for a little longer.

The Importance of Thorough Cooking

Now, you’re probably wondering why there is so much fuss about learning how to tell if a turkey burger is done.

Well, this is all due to the danger of undercooked poultry. Eating undercooked turkey meat can cause food poisoning due to the presence of bacteria.

The symptoms of this illness can include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and other issues. In severe cases, you may even need to be hospitalized.

The risk of food poisoning with ground turkey, and any ground meat, tends to be higher. This is because if the equipment used to grind the turkey is contaminated, then the bacteria is mixed throughout the entire batch. 

Bacteria also enter meat from the exterior. When meat is ground, the interior and exterior of the muscle are mixed together. So bacteria, if present, are now throughout the ground meat.

Fail to cook your turkey burgers properly, you may end up ill. Again, turkey burgers are fully cooked when they are 165°F at the thickest part of the burger.

Can Turkey Burgers Be Heated to Medium Rare?

No, you shouldn’t cook turkey burgers to medium rare (125°F for red meats). As you can see above, there is a higher chance of getting food poisoning when eating ground turkey or a turkey burger. Due to this, I wouldn’t take the risk of undercooking the meat.

Look, it’s a free country. If you want to cook your turkey burgers to medium rare, I can’t stop you. But you’re increasing your risk of food poisoning. I’m also skeptical that medium-rare poultry would taste good. 

Cooking Methods and Doneness

There are lots of different ways to prepare turkey burgers. You can grill the turkey burgers, cook them on the stovetop, bake them in an oven, smoke them, and even cook them in an air fryer.

So, does the cooking method determine or change how to tell if a turkey burger is done?

No, not really – even with a baked, air-fried, or smoked turkey burger, you have to make sure that the middle of the patty reaches an internal temperature of 165 °F.

The Top Tips for Cooking Turkey Burgers Properly

Here is what you need to know about preparing turkey burgers so they are fully cooked each and every time:

Appetizing Turkey Burger

Defrost Frozen Turkey Burgers Completely

Never try to cook frozen turkey burgers as they are. Instead, always defrost them first. If you try to prepare them while they are frozen, they will not cook evenly. Some spots will be done, while others will remain raw. It’s a recipe for a terrible burger.

Your best option is to let it defrost in the fridge, although this process can take longer. If you are in a rush, then you can place the frozen burgers in a Ziploc bag and seal them up tight. Then, fill a bowl or your sink with cold water and submerge the bag. Add ice every 30 minutes to keep things cold.

Don’t Let the Burgers Warm Up

Many cookbooks and online recipes tell you to let the meat sit out at room temperature while your grill is heating up. I think that’s bad advice. Meat absorbs more flavor when it’s cold. Keep your burgers in the fridge until the grill is ready, and you’ll get more of that flame-kissed flavor.

Heat the Grill Up

If you are grilling the burgers (that’s how I like to cook them), then heat the grill up first. Set the temperature to medium-high heat – this should be around 375°F to 400°F. For smoked turkey burgers, 225°F should do the trick.

Once the grill is hot enough, then arrange the burgers. Make sure not to crowd them – leave enough space in between each patty.

Wrapping It Up

In case you have ever wondered how to tell if a turkey burger is done – you now have a very comprehensive answer. The best way to tell is by using an instant-read thermometer. It should read 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the burger.

The next time you are whipping up a batch of turkey burgers, you will know just how to cook them to perfection!

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!
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