This One Tip Is a Game-Changer for Frozen Ground Beef

updated May 1, 2019
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So you bought a pound of ground beef when it was on sale last week because you were finally going to make that Philly cheesesteak pasta skillet. But the week got away from you and now you’ve got to act fast before this perfectly lovely mix of 85/15 ground chuck goes bad. What are you to do? Freeze it, right? Yes, but there’s one little thing you’ve got to do first that’s going to make all the difference when it comes time to use it.

Cook Then Freeze Your Ground Beef

You certainly could freeze your ground beef raw, just as it is, but then when it comes time to cook it, you’d have to defrost it first. Raise your hand if you’ve totally forgotten to defrost the meat. (If you’ve got an Instant Pot, this is less of an issue for you these days.)

But if you cook it before stashing it in the freezer, you can dump it straight into the slow cooker for chili, stir it into a quick weeknight soup, or just warm it up with a bit of your favorite salsa for the easiest weeknight tacos. It’s awesome if you’ve got kids who need to be able to put together a meal for themselves without much cooking — and really great for dorm rooms. Stuffed baked potato, anyone?

The ease of this means you can stock your freezer with ground beef when it’s on sale and not think twice about how much room it’s going to take up in there since the best way to store the ground beef is flat in a zip-top bag — clearly labeled, of course. You can keep the meat in the freezer for around four months without noticing any degrading.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

How to Freeze Cooked Ground Beef

You’ll be happy to know that this doesn’t require any rocket science. Cook your ground beef simply — seasoning it with salt and pepper at the minimum, adding in onion and garlic if you know that’s always going to work for you. Of course you could take it up a level and season a batch with cumin, chili, and oregano for tacos or chili or even sambal olek if was going into an Asian-inspired dish. Figure out the details that best suit your needs on that front and have at it!

Before transferring the cooked meat to a zip-top bag, make sure it’s relatively cool — close to room temperature or even chilled from the fridge — and drained of fat. I like to portion the meat by the half-pound, but there’s so much leeway here so scaling up to a pound is easy.

When it comes time to use your ground beef, take into account that some of the fat was removed, so adding a pat of butter, an extra sprinkle of cheese, or a drizzle of olive oil does the trick for bringing back some of that richness.

Now, pre-cooked ground beef isn’t always the answer. You can’t turn it into meatballs, meatloaf, or burgers, but it’s a great convenience for those nights when pasta is on the menu and you need to bulk up the marinara with a little more than mushrooms that have been hanging out in the back of the fridge.

Do you cook your meat before freezing? What have you learned?