How to Correctly Brown Ground Turkey in a Skillet

Things You'll Need

  • Wooden spoon
  • Potato masher (optional)

Available fresh or frozen, in bulk or in patties, ground turkey is a versatile alternative to other ground meats. If you're using ground turkey as a healthier alternative to red meat, be sure to check the label for the lean-to-fat ratio. Different brands and different products within the same brand range in fat content from nearly fat free -- 98/2 -- to a fat content of 85/15, which rivals ground beef or pork. As with other ground meats, the percentage of fat in the ground turkey affects the way the meat cooks.


  • The USDA recommends cooking all ground turkey to a safe temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Ground Turkey Patties

Step 1: Thaw Completely

Thaw frozen ground turkey patties completely before cooking to ensure the safe temperature is reached throughout the meat.

Step 2: Prepare the Skillet

Preheat a stovetop skillet over medium-high heat. If you're using an electric skillet set the temperature gauge at about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add a small amount of oil to the hot skillet -- just a thin coating on the bottom of the pan is enough. Increase or decrease the amount of oil depending on the fat content of the turkey product. The higher the fat content, the less oil you need. Use an oil with a high smoke point to create a crisp outer layer on the patties without scorching them. Coconut, grapeseed and peanut oils are suitable choices.

Step 3: Cooking the Patties

Place the patties in the prepared skillet and make a slight indentation about 1/8-inch deep in the center of each patty with your thumb or the back of a teaspoon to keep the patties flat during cooking. Cover the skillet with a loose lid or spatter screen so you can keep an eye on the meat. When the patties develop a browned crust on the bottom, flip them and cook the other side. Pre-formed ground turkey patties are conveniently sized so that when both sides are browned, the meat is done. Depending on the fat content of the patties, cooking time averages about three to four minutes per side. You can use an instant-read meat thermometer to check the interior temperatures of the patties.


  • Ground turkey patties do not require a resting period.

Bulk Ground Turkey

Step 1: Preparation

Completely thaw bulk ground turkey in the wrapper, whether it's in a flat pack or tube. Preheat the skillet to medium and add oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan.

Step 2: Cooking the Meat

Break apart the ground turkey into the pan to make crumbles. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, using a wooden spoon to stir the meat every few minutes to break apart any large clusters. Very lean ground turkey tends to cook together in a block. Adjust the heat to prevent scorching, if necessary. Depending on the fat content of the ground turkey product, you may need to add moisture. Use plain water or try other liquids that contribute flavor to the final dish. Experiment with broth, mirepoix liquid, wine or herbal tea, or add drained juice from a jar of salsa to spice things up. Reduce the heat and continue stirring until any extra liquid disappears. The bulk ground turkey crumbles are done when they are no longer pink, about 10 minutes depending on fat content and cooking temperature.


  • A potato masher quickly separates chunks into small, uniformly sized bits.


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