Ground turkey can feel like a dry or boring compromise for more flavorful ground beef. But that’s only because it isn’t treated right.
Give it just 10 minutes of your time and a few additions that you probably have on hand, and you can transform it into a juicy, tender, and versatile base for countless quick meals.
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The Perks of Ground Turkey
But first, there are other reasons ground turkey should be in your regular rotation.
Its mild flavor seamlessly blends with all sorts of seasonings, and because it’s both ground and relatively tender, it can be cooked quickly.
It can also last a long time in the fridge when sold in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), where a cocktail of gasses under a taut plastic seal staves off spoilage and discoloration.
To really do service to ground turkey and earn it a spot in our weeknight round-up, we made a ground turkey mix that improves the meat in three ways. Here’s how.
1. Give Ground Turkey a Savory Boost
To amp up the meat’s flavor—but keep it versatile for a range of applications—we added chopped shallot and Worcestershire sauce.
Both enhanced the meaty taste of the turkey, while Worcestershire sauce’s pungent tang added balance. Salt and pepper seasoned the meat through and through.
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2. Ensure Pleasing Texture and Richer Taste
Even 93 percent lean ground turkey—often the fattiest preground turkey you can buy—can still taste too lean and can easily dry out during cooking.
To temper those effects, we added 2 tablespoons of melted butter to the meat, along with a panade of milk and panko. The butter brought richness and aided tenderness, the dairy contributed moisture, and the breadcrumbs interfered with the meat’s structure so that it couldn’t bond tightly.
The shallot also improved the meat’s texture: Once finely ground in a food processor (more on that in a minute), it tenderized the meat by breaking it up and preventing it from bonding tightly. Plus, the shallot bits shrink during cooking, leaving tiny air pockets that reduced the meat’s density.
3. Process the Ground Meat for Juicier Texture
Instead of blending the mix with our hands, we reground the meat with seasonings in a food processor.
Grinding meat develops myosin, a sticky meat protein that traps water and fat, keeping it juicy. And when the salt we added to the turkey mixes with water in the meat, myosin (which is very soluble in salty water) dissolves out of the muscle and forms a sticky, sturdy, moisture-trapping gel.
In fact, in sous vide tests, we found that untreated ground turkey lost about 35 percent more moisture during cooking than turkey that was salted and reground in a food processor before cooking—a disparity that you can really taste in the meat.
What to Make with Ground Turkey?
This all-purpose base has endless potential. Try it in patty melts topped with sweet caramelized onions and gooey cheese; mini‑meatloaves glossed with maple-Dijon glaze; and meatballs nestled in orzo with feta and a vibrant green olive sauce.