How To Tell If Ground Turkey Is Bad? 3 Tips From Experts

Ground turkey is favored for its lean, low-fat texture and unique flavor. Compared to chicken, it is darker, slatier, but also more appetizing. Ground turkey is also healthier in comparison with pork and meat. 

However, there is one common problem that you must know about raw turkey meat: it can be spoiled easily. If not having proper care, the meat will be inedible in a few days, or even faster – a few hours!

So, it is a must to learn how to store the meat effectively to avoid spoiling it. But first, we will find out how to tell if ground turkey is bad, then figure out how to store it later. Scroll down for more information! 

What Is Ground Turkey?

Ground turkey or minced turkey originates from the process of grinding light and dark turkey meat with fat and skin to form a smooth, grounded mixture. With bone, skin, and fat combined, ground turkey provides the white color with a super slight pink tint, a tender, dry texture, and a fatty flavor profile.

In the market, the majority of it is made from thighs, drumsticks of turkey, and they are also the cheapest portion. The most expensive one is ground turkey made from breast meat. 

Ground turkey is less fat than ground beef, but the flavor and the nutrition are similar, so it is commonly used as a ground beef substitute.

Why Does Ground Turkey Go Bad?

How To Tell If Ground Turkey Is Bad
A Bad Ground Turkey

Before finding “How can you tell if ground turkey is bad?”, let’s analyze why ground turkey goes bad first. Two factors affect the quality of the meat: temperature and air exposure. If you don’t keep the meat at a specific heat range, it will spoil. Yet, it won’t be good either if you let it get too much air exposure.


The ideal temperature for storing raw turkey for 1 to 2 days is 33°F to 40°F (0-4 Celsius). Above this range, microorganisms and bacteria multiply four to five times faster. If this happens for a long time, your meat will turn rotten and smelly.

Air Exposure

The second reason that causes food spoilage is air exposure. In case you let meat at room temperature with no cover, the bacteria density will multiply two times compared to when it is refrigerated and sealed. Therefore, please avoid letting the turkey sit out as much as possible. 

How To Tell If Ground Turkey Is Bad?

It is not hard to point out whether your ground turkey is bad or not. When you grind the meat, you can see spoilage signs based on the smell, texture, and color.

Smell Ground Turkey

Smell Ground Turkey
Smell To Detect Bad Ground Turkey

First, we will talk about the easiest way to detect spoiled meat. This is the common sign for any food – if ground turkey smells weird, it is inedible.

Like chicken, turkey is at high risk of having bacteria, like Salmonella and Escherichia coli (E. coli). Typically, there is no smell on the turkey at all. In case there is one, you know something odd is happening!

What does bad ground turkey smell like? To describe the meat in one word, that will be a “sulfur-like” odor. Throw away that stinky turkey immediately when you feel it.

Feel The Slimy Meat

slimy ground turkey
slimy ground turkey

The “normal” turkey is smooth, tender, and dry. So, if your piece of meat feels slimy, gooey, and super sticky, that turkey may have some problems.

Ground Turkey Appearance

ground turkey color spots
ground turkey color spots

Besides odor and smell, you should also test the ground turkey color. It is quite challenging to find out spoilage by seeing the color. Let us tell you why!

Fresh turkey meat has a white color with a slight pink tinge, unlike other meats. The older it is, the whiter it turns. When the meat starts turning rough and rubbery, it will have a gray color.

Although grey ground turkey is still edible, it is unappetizing. When the meat develops a yellow or green tint, that is when the meat starts spoiling.

How To Freeze Ground Turkey Meat To Expand Its Shelf Life?

Now we have known “How to know if turkey is bad ?”, let’s find out the way to expand turkey shelf life by freezing it. Similar to other food, freezing is the best way to lengthen the longevity of the turkey.

There is one point we must remind you before freezing: the longer you freeze, the more juice and taste the meat loses. So, to make ground turkey taste like beef with juicy and savory flavor, only freeze it in 4 months. 

Suppose you want to keep the turkey for less than five days; there is no need to freeze, just refrigerating is enough. If the can is unopened, then you can eat for a maximum of 5 days. If the can is opened, it will only be edible for two days.

Step 1: Prepare the Ground Turkey Meat

The first step of freezing raw ground turkey in fridge or freezer is preparation. Don’t underestimate this step; good preparation makes a tasty dish!

Specifically, you need to set up the freezer’s temperature to 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17.78 °C). At this heat, the meat will be safe indefinitely. 

However, be mindful that the home freezers cannot remain the temperature at that specific range constantly. 

Step 2: Wrap The Ground Turkey Meat Properly

If you cannot ensure the meat will be kept at the “safe zone,” what should you do to improve the turkey meat’s shelf life?

Here is what you need: wrap it appropriately to avoid freezer burn after skinning the ground turkey. Do you know that the major reason for freezer burn is the exposure of the air surrounding the food you are about to freeze? So, cover the food, airtight as possible. 

Here is another reason why store packaging is not a good idea for freezing: Typically, the store package is not protective enough to prevent bacteria or juice from absorbing other food in the fridge.

After buying the turkey meat from the store, please wrap ground turkey meat with one extra layer of protection. You can use aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

Step 3: Storage And Freezing

Put the turkey in the Ziploc bag and seal it tightly. Once the meat is tightly sealed, place it in the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17.78 °C). Label the bag so that you can remember the ground turkey expiration date later. 

In the next 3 or 4 months, the meat is safe in the freezer, and you can take it out of the freezer, thaw turkey in fridge, and cook at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does Ground Turkey In The Freezer Go Bad? 

This is a challenging question since most food will last for a super long time in the freezer. However, if not getting proper storage, turkey can still be bad in the freezer, even though the chance is low. So, how to know if the ground turkey in freezer go bad?

You cannot recognize that the turkey is spoiled from the inside until you defrost it. There is no obvious exterior indication.

That being said, the first and the most important point you need to do after taking out the chicken is to thaw it completely and check for spoilage signs in texture, color, and smell. Details on checking the spoiled turkey are provided in the previous section.

The most common problem people have when freezing turkey is causing freezer burn. If your meat has this problem, you can see patches with dark brown on the surface, or your ground turkey turned gray in fridge gradually. When cooked, these foods are also dry, tough, and unpalatable.

2. How Long Does Frozen Ground Turkey Last After Being Defrosted?

After being defrosted in the fridge, the frozen ground turkey will last for a maximum of 2 days. If you thaw the food in the microwave, it will last for a couple of hours. So, make sure that you eat it immediately!

3. What Happens If You Eat Spoiled Ground Turkey?

If you’re wondering “Can I eat ground turkey after use by date?” No, you should not! The result is the same with eating other spoiled food – you will get sick, 100%! People with strong digestion systems may have diarrhea and stomach pain, but those with weak bodies may need hospitalization! 

4. How Long Does It Take to Get Food Poisoning From Ground Turkey?

After eating just a few hours, you will immediately get the food poisoning signs. However, you can get food poisoning after a few days if the turkey is at the beginning of the spoilage and the bacteria isn’t multiplied that strong. 

That’s the reason why sometimes, even after a few days of eating turkey that you get an illness. Before cooking some simple ground turkey recipes, like turkey burgers, please check the expiration date carefully.

Final Thoughts

We have given you the most detailed explanation about ground turkey, how to tell if ground turkey is bad and how to freeze it. Additionally, we also covered some commonly asked questions about this food.

Hope it is helpful for you. Before cooking, please consider all factors mentioned above to ensure that the turkey is still edible. Good luck!

Kevin Richard

Hi all! I’m Kevin. I spend plenty of time in the kitchen every day because I love cooking healthy and delicious foods for my family and friends. Cooking gives me a chance to be creative and fun. It’s also one of the most meaningful ways to express my love and take care of my little family.

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