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5 Foolproof Ways Of Knowing When Ground Turkey Is Bad

Quick Answer: How Can You Tell When Ground Turkey Has Gone Bad?

If you’re unsure how to tell when ground turkey is bad, there are 5 foolproof ways to determine this. The top 5 indicators include texture, smell, color, whether or not your ground turkey has mold on it and lastly, the expiration date provided. Texture relates to a gooey and slimy exterior. In terms of smell, an off-putting or sulfuric odor will also indicate your ground turkey has spoiled. In addition, if your ground turkey has changed to a grayish hue or has become discolored, you may want to throw it away. If you see any mold spots in the form of green or black areas, you should not consume it. Finally, if you notice the expiration date has already passed, it’s time to toss your ground turkey.

Whether you’re on a diet and are looking for leaner protein options, or you simply can’t get enough of this holiday fan favorite, turkey is always a great meal plan. 

And when it comes to turkey, an easy and delicious way to prepare it is all chopped up and fried on the stovetop. 

Yes, today we’re talking about ground turkey- well, sort of. Although it’s obviously more fun to talk about recipes, ingredients and cooking methods, sometimes we simply have to sit down and face the less pleasant parts of life. 

Have you ever opened the fridge door and been taken aback by a rancid smell? While the source could be a number of things, a good possibility could be that it’s your sausages.

Ground turkey is essentially small, mashed-up pieces of both light and dark turkey meat. 

When ground turkey is good, it glistens, has a subtle meaty smell and possesses a light pink color. In this state, ground turkey is an excellent source of minerals and vitamins such as vitamin B. Ground turkey is also low in fat and is known to be linked with supporting heart health. 

However, when ground turkey turns rotten, all of these health benefits disappear and you are left with nothing but spoiled meat. 

Ground turkey is one of those foods that is fairly easy to detect when it goes bad (the odor will be especially indicative of this). 

In today’s fast-paced society, life is too busy to have to worry about possibly eating rotten food (not to mention the ailments you may contract post-eating- especially when it comes to meat), which is exactly why we are here to share with you 5 foolproof ways of being able to recognize spoiled ground turkey. 

If your ground turkey passes any of the following texture, smell, color or mold tests, it has likely gone bad and we would highly recommend not consuming it. 

If you have suspicions that your ground turkey may be past its prime, a great indicator of this is the texture. 

RELATED: Definitive Guide To Know How To Tell If Turkey Bacon Is Done

How To Tell If Your Ground Turkey Is Bad: Texture

When it comes to turkey, the moisture levels are what you need to keep an eye on. 

Naturally, turkey will be moist, but as it spoils, this moisture becomes extensive and will appear slimy. 

For more details, check out the following table. 

Indicator Description 
Sliminess When ground turkey begins to go bad, it will take on a different texture. 
This will manifest in a slimy, gooey or sticky consistency. 
It’s important to note that in their natural and healthy states, leaner white meats such as chicken and turkey will be slightly moist in appearance. 
Not only will it “glisten,” the turkey should also be somewhat crumbly. 
When examining your turkey, make sure you distinguish between “moist” and “slimy”. 
If you touch your turkey and it seems gooey, you should immediately throw it away. 
If you’re feeling unsure whether or not the sliminess is indicating spoilage, check out some of the other signs, such as the color or smell. 

RELATED: The 30 Best Ground Turkey Recipes

How To Tell If Your Ground Turkey Is Bad: Smell 

When it comes to identifying whether or not food has gone bad, the most common indicator is smell. 

Have you ever opened your fridge or walked into your pantry and almost got knocked over by an extremely unpleasant odor? 

If this happens, it’s a good idea to find the root cause of it. If you suspect it might be your ground turkey, take a look at the following indicators. 

IndicatorDescription 
Unpleasant smellWhen ground turkey is fresh, its smell is actually fairly mild. 
Fresh ground turkey actually hardly contains any odor and may only be slightly aromatic of meat. 
When ground turkey starts to go bad and develop bacteria or mold, it will develop a strong and pungent smell that may be off-putting or resemble sulfur.  
If you observe that your ground turkey is giving off funky aromatic vibes, immediately throw it away.
When tossing meat that is rotten, it’s a good idea to wrap it up as the odor will get progressively more strong and may make your entire kitchen smell highly unpleasant. 
Get rid of the garbage as soon as possible to avoid maggots. 
If you’re feeling unsure, look for some of the other indicators, such as the texture, color and whether or not mold is present.

How To Tell If Your Ground Turkey Is Bad: Color

After smell, the second most obvious indicator of spoiled meat is appearance. 

When you look at your ground turkey, and your instincts are telling you that something is off visually, you’re probably right. 

The color, in particular, will be a sure sign of this. 

For further reassurance, check out these indicators: 

Indicator Description
ColorTo identify whether or not your ground turkey has gone bad, it’s important to keep in mind that naturally, ground turkey should possess a light pink hue. 
If you take a look at your ground turkey and notice that it has either turned grayish in color or is becoming discolored in any way (or both), it’s time to discard them. 
NOTE: Poultry may start to turn gray as it oxidizes and turkey in this state is still perfectly okay to eat. 
The best way to distinguish this natural and healthy process from ground turkey that has gone bad, is time. If more than a couple of days have gone by, and the gray hue is accompanied by a strange odor, your turkey has spoiled. 
In addition, if the gray hue is accompanied by sliminess or tackiness, your meat is rotten. 
If you’re still feeling unsure, look for some of the other indicators, such as the texture and whether or not mold is present. 

How To Tell If Your Ground Turkey Is Bad: Mold 

For the sake of both you and your entire kitchen, we hope your ground turkey never reaches this state. 

If it does, don’t panic. We’ve all been there- you haven’t cleaned out the fridge in a while and food inevitably gets lost in the dark abyss that is the meat drawer.  

You start to notice a strong odor and decide it’s time to go on a hunt to identify where the smell is coming from. And that’s when you discover it. A shriveled lump of something that once resembled food, is now covered in mold. 

Mold is extremely unhealthy and, when consumed, can make you very sick. If you’re not sure whether or not the spots on your ground turkey are moldy, the indications in the following chart may be able to help you. 

IndicatorDescription 
Mold spots When your ground turkey begins to go bad, it may start to develop mold.
This will appear in the form of green or black spots. When this happens, it’s important to discard them immediately as toxic bacteria has formed, which could potentially lead to food poisoning. 
NOTE: While it is safe to consume the unaffected areas of some foods, when it comes to meat, if there is mold present, it is best to throw it away.
Toss any other foods that may have come in contact with the moldy meat. 
Wrap up your turkey tightly before placing it in the garbage (if your turkey has mold, it is likely that it is also accompanied by a foul smell that you don’t want spreading across your entire kitchen). 

How To Tell If Your Ground Turkey Is Bad: Expiration Date 

This one may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people ignore this indicator and find themselves eating rather unpleasant food. 

Because of the possible health risks, when it comes to meat, you don’t want to play around with the expiry date. 

IndicatorDescription 
Expiration Date If you’ve purchased your ground turkey from a grocery store or butcher shop, it should always have a label on them that either states “expiration date” or “best until.” 
This date is there for a reason and will inform you until what day your meat is safe to eat. 
While some foods may still be okay a couple of days after this date, meat is a different story. 
Even if the texture, smell and color look completely fine, there could still be harmful bacteria growing inside the turkey, such as E. Coli or salmonella. 
Therefore, always strictly abide by the expiration date provided. 
After purchasing turkey at the store, it will only stay good in your fridge raw for up to 1-2 days (for more tips on storage processes, check out the frequently asked question section below). 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Properly Thaw Ground Turkey?

Defrosting frozen ground turkey is best done in a cool environment, such as a refrigerator or an ice bath. The quality of ground turkey may deteriorate and become rancid if it is left to thaw at room temperature.

To thaw ground turkey, leave it in the refrigerator overnight. After thawing, ground turkey can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

  • Keep raw ground turkey covered in the fridge to prevent cross-contamination (uncovered foods absorb and spread the smells and flavors of other foods in the fridge).

If you want to thaw ground turkey in the microwave, you should use the defrost setting, and then cook it immediately after thawing (because microwaves warm the meat, bacteria quickly grows).

How Do You Store Ground Turkey?

After purchasing ground turkey, it’s best to keep it in the original packaging that it came in from the store. 

The best place for it is in the meat drawer in your fridge. If you don’t have a meat drawer, store the turkey at the back of the fridge, where it can be exposed to the coldest temperatures. 

In the fridge, raw ground turkey will only last 1-2 days (like most poultry), so make sure if you use this storage method, you’re planning on eating it in the next couple of days. 

If you’ve just made turkey for dinner and have leftovers, you can also store cooked meat in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. 

If you would like to eat your turkey at a later date (this is especially the case if you like to purchase your meat in bulk), ground turkey can also be stored in the freezer. 

For this method, wrap your turkey tightly in plastic wrap (with an added layer of foil if you feel your meat needs more protection), and then place it in a freezer-safe bag. 

Make sure to label the bag so that you know how long your meat has been in the freezer for. 

Your turkey will stay good for up to 4 months this way. It is still safe to consume after this period of time, but the taste and quality won’t be as good. 

Is Gray Turkey Safe To Eat? 

Poultry may start to turn gray as it oxidizes and turkey in this state is still perfectly okay to eat. 

  • The best way to distinguish this natural and healthy process from ground turkey that has gone bad is time. If more than a couple of days have gone by, and the gray hue is accompanied by a strange odor, your turkey has spoiled. 
  • In addition, if the gray hue is accompanied by sliminess or tackiness, your meat is rotten. 
Jess Smith
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