Learning to thaw ground beef is essential for any home cook. Read through these three simple methods to find the one that works best for your time frame.
Ground beef dishes like lasagna, burgers, and casseroles almost always rotate in the evening. So stocking up on ground beef and freezing extra packages when it’s on sale is a no-brainer. But when it comes to defrosting and using ground beef, things may be less clear. To help you, we’ll walk you through how to defrost ground beef, whether you have a day, an hour, or five minutes.
Before we talk about defrosting ground beef, it’s important to know how long ground beef can be stored in the refrigerator.
Thawing Ground Beef in the Refrigerator
Thawing ground beef in the refrigerator is the best option if you have 24 hours. The refrigerator is the best way to thaw ground beef because it thaws the meat slowly and evenly. Also, refrigerators keep ground beef below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, above 40 degrees Fahrenheit is a “danger zone” for bacterial growth.
To defrost ground beef in the refrigerator, place it in a bowl or ziplock bag and place it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. The bag or bowl will catch any condensation that overflows the refrigerator. After 24 hours, a pound of ground beef should be fully defrosted and ready to cook. If you’re defrosting larger or thicker ground beef buns, it may take a little over a day. By the way, the best way to defrost steak has a similar method and time frame.
How to Thaw Ground Beef in Water
Thawing ground beef in water takes only a fraction of the time it would take in the refrigerator, usually an hour or so. For this method, place your ground beef package in a ziplock bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and secure the lid. Then place a bag of ground beef in a large bowl and cover with cold water. You may want to place some weight, such as a bowl or plate, on the beef bag so that it is submerged. Let the beef thaw for about an hour, changing the water when it warms, about 30 minutes or so.
As with the refrigerator method, defrosting ground beef in water may take more than an hour, depending on the weight and thickness of the package. Don’t try to rush the process with lukewarm or hot water; it can encourage bacterial growth and even start cooking part of the ground beef. You should make sure you don’t make any other common food safety mistakes.
Defrost ground beef in the microwave
While professional chefs avoid defrosting in the microwave, you can safely defrost ground beef in a few minutes in the microwave. To do this, put the ground beef in a microwave-safe container and put it in the microwave. Set the microwave to the defrost setting (or change it to 40-50% power) and heat the beef for 30 seconds. Flip the ground beef and continue to microwave in 20-30 second increments, with each turn, until the beef is defrosted.
Since the microwave is a hotter method, your ground beef may start to cook a little on the outside without fully defrosting the inside. It’s perfectly safe as long as you cook the ground beef right after heating it in the microwave. If you don’t want to cook the beef in the microwave, you can cook the meat in a skillet if it’s still a little frozen in the middle.
Frequently Asked Questions About Thawing Ground Beef
Is there any way that ground beef shouldn’t be thawed?
Yes, there are methods you should never use to defrost ground beef. The main way to skip is to leave frozen ground beef on the counter. The cause can be traced back to the hazardous area of 40°F-140°F.
Leaving ground beef or other meats at room temperature can allow bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses to grow and make you sick. This doesn’t just happen with thawed meat. Here are some other foods that can cause food poisoning.
How long does thawed ground beef keep?
If you thaw ground beef in the refrigerator, it can be eaten raw there for up to two days. Here’s how long other thawed foods will keep in the refrigerator, including cooked ground beef.
However, ground beef thawed in water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately to prevent bacterial growth.
Can I refreeze thawed ground beef?
No, we would not recommend it. While you can technically refreeze ground beef thawed in the refrigerator (we can show you how to safely refreeze meat), this can affect the flavor and texture of the meat. Ground beef thawed in water or in the microwave should not be refrozen because it is too close or enters the bacteria danger zone.
If you need to refreeze fully or partially thawed ground beef, we recommend fully cooking the beef, letting it cool, and freezing it.
How do I use thawed ground beef?
There are many recipes that call for ground beef. Our best ground beef recipes include peppers and soups, pasta, meatballs, and more. If you have a whole package of ground beef, you should browse our list of over 100 recipes that use a pound of ground beef.