Do you often visit the huge box stores to buy items in large quantities? Have you ever gotten a really good buy on ground beef in a large amount but didn’t have the time to break it into patties before you dropped it in the freezer? Not the best plan. Have you ever tried to find a recipe that uses a five-pound block of ground beef? Didn’t think so!
So, you know the result: a large block of icy ground beef. But do you know how to cut frozen ground beef into smaller, more usable quantities? The answer is … not very easily.
You have many options at this point. This article will cover your options, give you several important ground beef handling reminders, and then give you ideas on how to divide up your ground beef before you freeze it.
You Have Frozen Ground Beef: Now What?
1 – Cutting it Carefully with a Knife
This approach to cutting is not an easy task, or there would be no content when you searched for this question. The point is: this task is challenging to do. The possibility of injury is high. The difficulty level is high, as well.
Don’t take a big butcher knife and hack away until you cut off what you need. That is like a huge mess waiting to happen. Or worse still, an injury in progress.
No knife will accomplish this task. You will see tales of people who tried this who did not get hurt but ended up breaking their blade. While you are using a sharp knife, hopefully, a serrated knife, hold the frozen beef firmly on a cutting board and saw back and forth slowly. Think of it as a slow and steady cutting process. This approach also works best if you are cutting off a piece that is only one to two inches thick.
This task of holding and sawing the meat is also going to vary a bit according to the actual shape the meat has been frozen in. Is it in a rectangular package that is flat and not very thick? Or is it one of those round tubes that will make it more of a challenge to hold while you cut?
Again, choose this option carefully, only if you take great care, have a good knife, and can hold it with a firm grip!
2 – Partially Defrost the Meat
Although this is not the best way, you can take one end of the ground beef and place it under cold water for a few minutes until it is easier to cut. You will still need to take care as in option 1 to hold the meat carefully and use a good knife.
The goal is to slice what you need and then return the carefully rewrapped meat to your freezer as quickly as possible. It is recommended that you let the meat you cut off thaw in your refrigerator the rest of the way.
3 – Thaw the Meat in the Refrigerator and Refreeze What You Don’t Need
This approach has two benefits. You can thaw your meat as recommended in your refrigerator and then you can refreeze what you don’t need.
Now many people ask, “Can you do that? Can you refreeze meat?” The answer is yes. See the food safety recommendations below as provided by the FDA about how to take care of refreezing meat. Note that it is only for the meat that has been thawed in the refrigerator.
This thawing in the refrigerator approach is an advantage because you can refreeze the meat in smaller portions if you like. Plus, this approach is safe as long as you follow the directions for thawing, as noted below.
The potential problems with this approach involve the meat losing some desired texture and, potentially, taste from thawing and refreezing.
4 – Use a Microwave to Thaw Before Cutting
This approach is recommended only if you want to use the whole frozen portion of meat anyway. You might ask, “Why can’t the meat be thawed and then refreeze the meat just as in option 3?” The problem is that most of the time the meat begins to cook as you thaw it, and that is not desirable to refreeze.
Partially cooked meat that is then refrozen becomes a bacteria problem. You don’t want that!
5 – Thaw Frozen Ground Beef in a Multifunctional Pressure Cooker
This pressure cooker option is another approach only for those who want to use the entire ground beef block you have frozen. Follow the directions carefully on the cooker that you own. You can thaw it this way before cutting it to use as needed.
This method of cooking ground beef from frozen works with up to two pounds of meat (approximately the size that will fit in most of these cookers). Preparing a bigger block of frozen meat may overcook the edges.
You will need to use the trivet at the bottom of the pot to keep it up out of the water. Otherwise, you will boil the hamburger meat.
Also, use the natural release option to release the pressure slowly. This option helps the meat keep more moisture.
Storing Ground Beef
- Refrigerate or freeze ground beef as soon after purchase as possible. These two options preserve freshness. It also slows bacterial growth. Refrigerate or freeze in its packaging if the meat will be used soon after purchase. Some people like to remove the packet at the bottom of the packaging before it freezes to the meat. It’s a bit messy to remove after the packaging is frozen.
- Your refrigerator should store meat at 40°F or below to keep meat fresh. You should use the ground beef within one or two days of storage in your refrigerator.
- For longer storage in your freezer, wrap the ground beef in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper, or plastic freezer bags. Ground beef will lose quality over time. Ground beef is best if used within four months after freezing. Write the date on your packages with a permanent marker so you can keep track of storage times.
- The best way to thaw ground beef safely is in the refrigerator. This thawing approach prevents the growth of bacteria. Cook or refreeze ground beef within one to two days.
- To defrost ground beef rapidly, defrost in the microwave oven or cold water. You can submerge the entire package in a bowl of cold water. If you use the microwave to defrost, cook the ground beef immediately because some areas may begin to cook during the defrosting. To defrost in cold water, it is recommended that you put the meat in a watertight plastic bag before you submerge it. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately. Do not refreeze raw ground beef that is thawed in cold water. You can store ground beef after it has been cooked thoroughly.
- Never leave ground beef or any perishable food out at room temperature for more than two hours (one hour if it is 90°F or above).
Ground Beef Safety
- When ground beef is ground, more of the meat is exposed to harmful bacteria. Bacteria multiply rapidly in what are often called food Danger Zone temperatures — meaning temperatures between 40°F and 140°F.
- Freeze or refrigerate ground beef as soon as possible after purchase. This approach preserves its freshness and slows the growth of bacteria. Be especially attentive on days when the heat is 90°F or above.
- You can refrigerate or freeze ground beef in its original packaging if the meat is used soon after purchase.
- To keep your food’s bacterial levels low, store ground beef at 40°F (or below and use within two days or freeze.
Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill
According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, check your food safety steps by following what they identify as the four basic rules — Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces.
- Germs that cause food poisoning can spread.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food.
- Wash your cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with hot, soapy water.
Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate items in your kitchen.
- Raw meat can spread germs to other foods—keep your foods separate.
- Use separate cutting boards for different foods. The same goes for plates for raw meat.
- When grocery shopping, keep raw meat away from other foods.
- Keep raw meat separate from all other foods in the fridge.
Cook: Make sure it is cooked to the right internal temperature.
- Food is safely cooked if it is cooked to the right internal temperature when you check it with a food thermometer. Color and texture of the meat are not the way to judge if your food is safely cooked.
- Utilize the great tool of a food thermometer to make sure that all of your foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
- 160°F is the right temperature for ground beef.
Chill: Refrigerate promptly. Follow all the refrigeration guidelines mentioned previously.