How to Freeze Ground Beef to Keep It Fresh Longer

Ground beef is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many dishes like burgers, tacos, chili, meatballs, and more. Buying ground beef in bulk and freezing it is a great way to save money and always have some on hand for recipes. However, there are some important steps to take when freezing ground beef so it stays fresh and retains its quality when thawed. This article will explain how to properly freeze and store ground beef.

Why Freeze Ground Beef?

Freezing ground beef has several advantages:

  • Saves money – Buying in bulk when ground beef is on sale saves money compared to buying just what you need at regular price each week.

  • Convenient – Having a supply of frozen pre-portioned ground beef makes it easy to pull out just what you need for recipes, without having to defrost a huge package.

  • Avoids waste – Freezing prevents ground beef from going bad before you can use it.

  • Longer shelf life – Ground beef that is frozen correctly can keep for 4 months or longer before quality starts to decline.

Guidelines for Freezing Ground Beef

Follow these guidelines when freezing ground beef for the best quality:

  • Use fresh beef – Freeze ground beef within 1-2 days of purchasing for optimal freshness and quality.

  • Portion packages – Separate bulk packages into smaller portions based on recipe needs, like 1 pound for burgers or 1/2 pound for tacos.

  • Exclude air – Vacuum seal or press out excess air before sealing freezer bags. Air causes freezer burn.

  • Use freezer bags – Store in moisture-proof freezer bags or wrap in freezer paper. Regular plastic bags get brittle when frozen.

  • Freeze flat – Flatten to 1/2 inch thickness so it freezes faster.

  • Label packages – Include type of beef, amount, and date on each bag.

  • Freeze quickly – Freeze at 0°F or below. Place bags flat in a single layer until frozen solid.

  • Store long-term – Once frozen, packages can be stacked or stood upright to conserve freezer space.

Step-By-Step Guide

Follow these simple steps for freezing ground beef:

1. Buy Fresh Ground Beef

  • Choose freshly ground beef within 1-2 days of freezing – ground beef loses quality quickly.

  • Look for a bright red color and no off odors.

  • For the best results, use 80% lean ground beef. Higher fat content stays moister when frozen.

2. Portion Into Recipe-Ready Amounts

  • Separate meat into portions based on recipe needs like tacos, chili, burgers, etc.

  • Good sizes are 1 pound, 1/2 pound, or 1/3 pound.

  • Weigh portions on a food scale for accuracy.

3. Package in Freezer Bags

  • Place each portion in a quart or gallon freezer bag. Squeeze out excess air.

  • Freezer bags protect against freezer burn better than plastic wrap.

  • You can also use vacuum seal bags, foil, wax paper, or plastic freezer wrap.

4. Flatten Packages

  • Use a rolling pin to flatten each bag of ground beef to about 1/2 inch thick.

  • Flattening packs expedites freezing and thawing.

  • It also removes air pockets that cause freezer burn.

5. Label Packages

  • Label each package with type of beef, quantity, and freeze date.

  • This lets you keep track of stock and use oldest first.

  • Use a permanent marker that won’t smear or fade.

6. Freeze Promptly

  • For fastest freezing, place bags flat in a single layer on freezer shelves.

  • Once solid, packages can be stacked or stored upright.

  • Freeze at 0°F or below. Quality suffers if not frozen quickly.

  • For quickest freezing, you can place bags on a baking sheet and freeze first.

Thawing Frozen Ground Beef

It is important to thaw ground beef safely to prevent bacterial growth. Here are a few thawing methods:

  • Refrigerator – Place bag on a plate or tray and thaw in the refrigerator. Takes 1-2 hours per pound.

  • Cold water – Submerge bag in cold water, changing water every 30 minutes. Takes about 1 hour per pound.

  • Microwave – Use the defrost setting in short bursts, flipping occasionally. Takes about 6 minutes per pound.

  • Cook immediately after microwave thawing. Do not refreeze meat thawed in microwave or cold water.

  • For food safety, cook thawed ground beef within 1-2 days.

Tips for Cooking Frozen Ground Beef

  • Browning may take longer since frozen beef releases less moisture.

  • Add a little oil to the pan to help facilitate browning.

  • Cook frozen ground beef immediately after thawing in microwave.

  • For recipes like chili or spaghetti sauce, you can cook frozen ground beef directly without thawing first. Just increase cook time.

  • Meatloaf and burgers require thawing before cooking so they hold their shape.

Storing Cooked Ground Beef

Follow proper storage guidelines after cooking ground beef:

  • Let cool completely, then refrigerate in shallow airtight containers.

  • Use cooked ground beef within 3-4 days for optimal freshness and quality.

  • Frozen cooked ground beef keeps 6-9 months. Freeze in recipe-sized portions.

  • Reheat cooked ground beef to 165°F and cook in soups, stews, and casseroles until steaming hot.

Signs of Bad Ground Beef

Check for these signs that ground beef has gone bad and should be discarded:

  • Odd, sour, or unpleasant odor

  • Grayish brown or greenish color

  • Slimy texture or sticky surface

  • Mold growth anywhere on the meat

  • Past expiration date or frozen over 4 months

Ground Beef Safety Tips

  • Cook raw ground beef to an internal temperature of 160°F to kill bacteria. Use a food thermometer to check.

  • Thaw frozen ground beef safely – in the fridge, cold water, or microwave on defrost setting. Do not leave out at room temperature.

  • Prevent cross-contamination by using separate plates and utensils for raw beef and cooked. Wash hands, counters, and tools after touching raw beef.

  • Refrigerate cooked ground beef within 2 hours; 1 hour if temperature outside is over 90°F. Toss if left out longer.

  • When reheating cooked ground beef, heat to an internal temperature of 165°F.

By following the proper techniques for freezing, thawing, cooking, and storing, you can safely freeze ground beef to have on hand whenever a recipe calls for it. Refer to this guide for best practices to maximize freshness and shelf life. With a well-stocked freezer, you’ll always be ready to make tasty burgers, chili, tacos, meatballs, and many other favorite recipes.

How To Freeze Ground Beef


What’s the best way to freeze ground beef?

To freeze ground beef. Divide into 1/2- or 1-pound portions. These are amounts that are standard for most recipes. If you have a vacuum sealer, this is the time to use it. Otherwise, place the portions in separate freezer zip-top bags.

Can I freeze ground beef in a Ziploc bag?

The best way to freeze ground meat: Place the meat into a food saver bag. Or if you do not have a vacuum sealer, place the meat into a Ziploc freezer bag. If you have a vacuum sealer, use it to pull out the excess air and seal. If you are using a Ziploc freezer bag, squeeze out all of the air and seal.

What do you wrap ground beef in for freezer?

How to Freeze Ground Beef. Wrap a package of ground beef in plastic wrap, aluminum foil or freezer paper, or place in a freezer-safe bag before freezing. Taking this extra step minimizes the risk of freezer burn and prevents any freezer odors from infiltrating the ground beef.

What is the best way to freeze meat?

Place packages in the coldest part of the freezer, and leave enough space between packages so that the cold air circulates well. Freeze only the amount of fresh meat or poultry that will freeze within 24 hours, about 2 to 3 pounds for each cubic foot of freezer space. Maintain a temperature of 0° F in a home freezer.

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