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How To Tell If Ground Turkey Is Bad

You can tell when ground turkey is bad really quickly if it smells funky. Really the best way to tell quickly is to smell it. If the ground turkey has a sour smell then you know to toss it.

You can also tell by the color and the texture of the ground meat.

In this post, we will go into detail on how to use your senses to tell if the minced meat is bad. You can also use these methods for other ground meats.

How to tell if the ground turkey is bad


To determine if ground turkey is bad, first, inspect its color, which should be a light pink hue and not gray or slimy. Next, smell the turkey for any off-odors, such as a sour or ammonia-like scent, which indicates spoilage. Lastly, check the expiration date on the packaging to ensure the turkey is still within its safe consumption window.

I am going to cover the top 3 ways to tell if the turkey is bad. When you talk about any ground meat it is really important that it has not gone bad.

It would be a good idea to work through all 3 of these tests to determine if you should cook with the meat or not.

When you grind meat you are adding a lot more surface area and increasing the chance of bacteria being able to grab hold of the raw ground turkey.

This is a key reason that you want to make sure the ground turkey has not gone bad.

You can also use this info to tell if ground beef is bad. If you are a poultry eater I also have a post on how to tell if chicken is bad that I suggest you take a look at.

In general, it is a good idea to know how to determine if any meat has gone bad before you start to cook with it.

1. Smell the ground turkey

ground turkey on a plate before its smelled

Yes, the smell really is the best way to tell. You really are looking for no real smell at all.

If it has a sour smell or an off smell at all then it is best to give it a toss. We are talking about poultry and it can carry bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, and more… just like chicken.

It should have no not smell to it at all. If you are questioning it, then it is better to toss it out than get food poisoning!

If you’re cooking an entire turkey I have a post that should help, how to tell if a whole turkey has gone bad.

2. Feel the minced meat

ground turkey on plate being touched

You want to feel the ground turkey. If it is slimy or really sticky then it is a good chance that it has gone bad and is not worth the risk.

If it feels slimy and also has then smell then you have 2 reasons to not even bother cooking it.

You really want to use your senses that’s why we have them. There is no better way to tell if the ground turkey is bad!

3. The look of the ground turkey

1lb ground turkey on a plate

This is probably the hardest way to tell if the ground turkey is bad. One way is to remember what it looked like when you bought it.

If it was fresh looking with a lite pink color when you bought it and now it has a dull color and is not vibrant and is showing any of the other signs then that is a good idea that it is no good.

The gray color is an obvious sign that it is not good as you can see in the picture.

If your looking for other cooking tips check out how to tell if hummus has gone bad and how to tell if mushrooms are bad.

When it has the look you see in the picture and also has a smell go ahead and toss it!

It is really a good idea to not follow the dates on the package from the grocery store. This is not the best way to tell if ground turkey is safe to eat.

You need to follow all the steps that were given in this post.

How to tell if ground turkey is cooked without a thermometer?

The best way without a thermometer is to make sure that the color is uniform throughout the meat. If you started with light pink color then if there is any left make sure to cook it longer.

You are typically looking for a light brownish color throughout.

If you do have a thermometer then you are looking for at least 165°F and I like to cook it closer to 170°F degrees when it’s ground poultry or ground beef.

The meat is very lean so you really don’t want to overcook it but you do run the risk of getting food poising when it’s not fully cooked.

If you are looking for a tasty turkey meatball recipe check out this recipe!!

If Ground Turkey is Spoiled Can You Still Cook It?

Spoiled ground beef

Spoiled ground turkey does not get safe to eat after you cook it. The ground meat needs to be fresh before you cook it.

You are not going to “cook out” the spoiled meat. If it is bad from the start it will still be bad after you cook it.

Nothing you can do but throw it away.


You run the risk of getting food poisoning. This can cause bloating, diarrhea nausea, and even worse. It is best to follow the steps of what the ground turkey smells, looks, and feels like before you decide to cook it.

If you’re talking fresh ground turkey then it should have a light pink color with no signs of gray to the minced meat. You also want to follow your other senses like the look and feel of the ground turkey before you make a decision to cook it.

No, brown turkey at this point was exposed to air and most likely has been susceptible to bacteria that could make you very sick. Poultry you want to be extremely careful with before you decide to cook it.

Now that the ground turkey is cooked you can’t tell if it is bad by looking at it because the light pink color will now be a cooked brown/gray color.

The only way to tell is if it has a bad smell to it. If you did not use a ton of seasoning to mask the smell then it should smell good without any sour ammonia smells to it.


In conclusion, understanding how to tell if ground turkey is bad is essential for ensuring the safety and quality of the meals you prepare.

By paying close attention to the color, smell, and texture of the meat, as well as the expiration date, you can avoid consuming spoiled turkey and the potential health risks it poses.

Remember, when in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and discard questionable meat to protect your health and the well-being of those who share your meals.

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