The best way to tell if your ground turkey is bad is by looking at its appearance (color) and touching it to feel the texture and the smell. Fresh ground turkey will have a pink or a light pink color however, sometimes it can be gray or darker depending on the age, color, and part of the turkey.
For instance, thighs are usually darker due to exercise. Also when exposed to air, ground turkey starts to turn gray. Therefore, it is important to check on the texture and the smell before deciding to toss it off into the trash can.
When it comes to texture, fresh ground turkey should feel moist and firm to the touch. If your ground turkey feels slimy or sticky to touch, it’s bad and should be disposed of right away as it can cause food-borne diseases.
The smell is another surest way to tell if your ground turkey is bad. Fresh ground turkey has no smell, if you notice a strong sulfur-like odor from your turkey just discard it right away.
Ground turkey is bad if it has a gray color, accompanied by a slimy or sticky-to-touch feel and a strong sulfur-like odor. Color change alone does not determine its spoilage as it varies with age and exposure to air.
Why is ground turkey gray on the outside and pink on the inside?
Exposure to air is one of the reasons why your ground turkey will appear gray on the outside and pink on the inside. Ground turkey may also darken or become gray when frozen especially if you don’t expel excess air before sealing. Another reason could be that your ground turkey is actually gone bad.
Therefore, it is important to double-check your meat if you have any doubts by simply smelling and touching to feel the texture.
If it emits no smell and feels moist and firm to touch, then it is safe for consumption.
How to safely handle ground turkey
To safely handle ground turkey and prevent food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses:
1. Avoid cross-contamination
Wash any utensils that are used for raw ground turkey with soap and hot water before using them on cooked ground turkey or any other food
2. Maintain high standards of cleanliness
Clean your hands, surfaces, and utensils that come in contact with ground turkey immediately after handling it.
3. Cook to 165°F
Cook ground turkey thoroughly and use a thermometer to rule out doneness instead of looking at the color change. Sometimes it can change color too soon before it is cooked and that can lead to foodborne illness since the harmful bacteria is still alive.
4. Store at a low temperature
Store your ground turkey in the refrigerator always as it is highly perishable and bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature.
How long can ground turkey stay in the fridge?
Raw ground turkey will remain fresh in the refrigerator for 2-3 days after purchase. Just refrigerate it with the packaging it came with. If after these days your ground turkey hasn’t reached the sell-by date, transfer it to the freezer to prolong its shelf life until you are ready to use it.
Cooked ground turkey on the other hand remains fresh in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. To achieve this, put it in an air-tight container as it retains its quality by keeping it moist and keeping off contamination from other foods.
How long does ground turkey stay in the freezer?
Raw ground turkey will retain its best quality for 3-4 months If you stored at 0°F in the freezer constantly, but will remain safe for consumption indefinitely. To freeze ground turkey, simply put it in the freezer with the packaging it came in. Place it at the back of the freezer where it’s coldest and won’t suffer temperature fluctuations when the door is opened.
Just like raw ground turkey, cooked ground turkey also maintains its quality for up to 3-4 months but remains safe indefinitely, if properly stored at 0°F constantly.
The best way to thaw frozen ground turkey
The best way to thaw a ground turkey is in the refrigerator where the temperature remains constant and safe from bacteria growth.
To thaw ground turkey in the fridge:
- Place it in a tray to catch the juice that leak during the process.
- Put it in the fridge away from fruits and vegetables to avoid cross-contamination.
- Allow your ground turkey to thaw for at most 24 hours depending on your refrigerator temperature settings.
You can leave your ground turkey in the fridge for 2 days after thawing before cooking.