Not checking your freezer temperature
One of the biggest mistakes you could be making when freezing ground beef is not having a freezer that is maintaining the correct temperature. According to the USDA, a temperature of 0 F will prevent microbial growth in meat, allowing ground beef to be stored for long periods. As the temperature of ground beef rises above 0 F, it becomes fertile ground for microorganisms.
Because maintaining a safe temperature is so critical, it is a good idea to keep a freezer thermometer in your freezer and periodically check it to ensure the temperature is not rising above 0 F. If your freezer is not able to maintain this critical temperature, it could be due to several different reasons (via AHS). The first thing to check is if your freezer door is remaining ajar or not staying closed. You should also check to see if the contents of your freezer are blocking the air circulating fan. Its also possible your freezer has a mechanical malfunction. If you suspect this is the case, you should call a repair professional.
Maintaining the temperature of your freezer is also an issue during power outages. The Department of Energy notes a freezer should be able to keep ground beef safe for 48 hours as long as the door is kept closed to retain the cold air. Once the temperature of the freezer reaches 40 F, ground beef will only last for two hours before it is unsafe to eat.
Loosely packaging your beef
Arguably, the biggest concern when it comes to freezing ground beef is avoiding freezer burn. The process that causes freezer burn starts when thousands of ice crystals form as food is frozen. Over time, these frozen water molecules move from the frozen piece of food to a colder part of the freezer, typically the side. As frozen water molecules are lost, the food becomes dehydrated, resulting in freezer burn (via the Library of Congress).
Therefore, one quick way to avoid freezer burn on ground beef is to tightly package those frozen water molecules. Start by wrapping your ground beef in plastic wrap. Next, wrap it with aluminum foil. Finally, put the wrapped ground beef into a plastic bag.
Its also a good idea to label your bag with the date. While wrapping ground beef tightly can help keep freezer burn at bay, this technique only works for so long. According to a study published in the Journal of Food Science, the quality and moisture content of frozen meat starts to deteriorate after two months.
Keeping beef frozen for too long
Because the quality of frozen ground beef can deteriorate after a couple of months, you should plan accordingly. If you are buying ground beef in bulk and freezing it, only buy enough meat you think you can consume within three or four months. While you can safely consume meat that has been frozen for more than four months, the quality of ground beef will deteriorate more the longer you wait (via Healthline).
You can also avoid keeping ground beef frozen for too long by using a first-in, first-out system, notes Gordon Food Service. Start by making sure all of your frozen ground beef is labeled with the date on which it was frozen. Move the most recently frozen packages to the rear of your refrigerator and place the oldest packages toward the front. Use frozen beef from the front of the freezer and work your way backward. Maintain this chronological rotation as you use frozen beef and add fresh beef to your freezer. Regularly inspect dates and throw out older frozen beef if it is covered in ice crystals or appears discolored.
Putting hot beef in the freezer
According to a common misconception, a refrigerator cannot effectively cool food that is too warm. Despite the fact that this myth is untrue, you shouldn’t put hot food straight into the freezer. If you put hot, freshly cooked ground beef in the freezer, it might cause other foods to defrost, which might encourage the growth of microorganisms. According to the FDA, a food item may spend too much time at temperatures that are hospitable to bacteria, which are 40 to 140 F. Hot food also takes longer to freeze.
The proper way to freeze cooked ground beef is to cool it slowly. Start by allowing your cooked beef to come down from its cooking temperature so that it can safely be placed in a container. Then, cover your cooked ground beef and place it in the refrigerator. After the beef has cooled in the refrigerator, tightly wrap it and place it into freezer bags. Label the bags to ensure you are cooked beef does not remain in the freezer for too long (via the University of Nebraska).
Letting beef blood drip on other foods
One of the biggest concerns related to storing raw meat is cross-contamination. If blood from your raw meat drips onto other food products like ice cream containers or popsicles, there is a risk that any pathogens in the blood will proliferate in them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raw ground beef can harbor campylobacter, salmonella, clostridium, E. coli, yersinia, and other bacteria. Hence, any juices from raw meat can carry these pathogens. Furthermore, any containers that have not been properly cleaned can pass residual bacteria along if used to then store raw meat. In significant quantities, these bacteria can cause severe illness and even death.
Restaurants prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat in either its original package or clean, sanitized containers that prevent leakage (via the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation). You also shouldnt store raw and cooked foods together, even in your freezer. Store raw ground beef at the bottom of your freezer. If for some reason any liquid leaks out, it wont drip onto other foods.
Thawing raw ground beef for several hours at room temperature
The recommended way to defrost raw meat is to let it do so gradually in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Additionally, you ought to defrost your meat on a sizable plate or sheet pan that can hold any potential juice leaks from raw meat. Then, in case it overflows, put this plate or pan at the bottom of the refrigerator.
Even though this procedure is generally foolproof, occasionally we forget to remove frozen meat from the freezer a day in advance. It may be tempting in these circumstances to forego the suggested procedure and simply completely defrost frozen ground beef at room temperature. But one of the biggest errors people make when defrosting meat is doing this. When defrosting meat, a refrigerator prevents it from reaching the risky temperature range, which is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It is safe to jump-start your defrost at room temperature, but you should only do so for less than two hours, according to the National Agriculture Library. You should transfer your defrosting meat to the refrigerator to finish the process after two hours.
Not pre-portioning your meat
Theres nothing disastrous about freezing multiple pounds of ground beef as a single block, but unless youre cooking it all at once, safely defrosting the amount you need will be very tricky. A simple, elegant solution to this is pre-portioning your ground beef before cooking it. According to Weight Watchers, the ideal serving size for cooked meat is 3 ounces. Because ground beef loses about 25% of its weight during cooking, each freezer-bound portion should be 4 ounces. For meal prep purposes, simply multiply 4 ounces of raw meat per the number of people in your household. Someone prepping for a household of three, for instance, should measure out 12-ounce portions.
Lifehacker (via Lunch in a Box) offers a clever hack for creating multiple individual portions in the same large freezer bag. Start by portioning out a dinners worth of ground beef, such as 12 ounces for a three-person household. Next, flatten out the ground beef and use a chopstick to segment the beef into equal-sized individual portions. The flattened portions will defrost much quicker and are less likely to contain air pockets, which can facilitate freezer burn. Be sure to tightly seal and mark your freezer bag. Since this process doesnt involve tightly wrapping the ground beef, its best for short-term freezing.
Not freezing cooked ground beef
You might think that freezing cooked beef will make it bad. But for weekly meal preparation, freezing cooked ground beef is a great trick. It’s crucial to note that batch cooking just one dish is one of the common errors people make when it comes to meal preparation. To avoid making this error, either prepare multiple dishes at once or prepare your ground beef so that it can be used in a variety of ways. For instance, if you cook ground beef with nothing more than onions, salt, and black pepper, you can use it to make tacos one night and stir fry the next.
After cooking your ground beef four different dishes, or with generic seasoning, allow it to cool, first on a counter for about 20 minutes, and then in a refrigerator. Once the cooked ground beef has reached refrigerator temperature, it should be wrapped tightly and transferred to freezer bags (via Canadian Living). When youre ready to use your ground beef, simply thaw it in your refrigerator and reheat it.
Tossing beef that appears to have turned brown
If you’ve ever seen ground beef that has turned brown, you might have assumed that bacterial growth is the cause of this color. But just because some of the ground beef turns from pink to brown doesn’t necessarily mean the meat is bad. The USDA states that fresh beef initially has a purplish hue when cut. Oxymyoglobin, a meat pigment that reacts when beef is exposed to oxygen, causes the meat to turn redder and eventually take on the distinctive pink hue we see in our supermarket meat section. Meat pieces that aren’t given oxygen will stay brown or even grey.
According to the USDA, ground beef that is still a brownish color is safe to consume. Having said that, meat left outside in an atmosphere with lots of oxygen fosters the growth of bacteria. A piece of meat that has bacteria on it will eventually turn brown as they spread. However, after it has been cooked, raw brown ground beef should be safe to eat if there are no other indications of spoilage, such as an unpleasant odor.
Not bringing your meat up to temperature
If you are making dinner on the fly, its easy to skip the mise en place, the French culinary term for preparing your ingredients before cooking. When cooking with ground beef, a key part of mise en place is allowing the meat to warm up slightly at room temperature so that you arent throwing cold meat into a pan.
When you add cold meat to a hot pan, it is challenging to achieve a good sear that will help your meat develop a variety of flavors. Additionally, significantly lowering the temperature of a pan by adding a lot of cold meat could affect the way you cook. It’s more challenging to ensure properly cooked insides when preparing burgers when they’re cooked cold.
That being said, you also dont want to cook room-temperature ground beef. Not only are you running the risk of food poisoning, but you are also increasing the chances of overcooking your meat and drying it out. Celebrity chef Bobby Flay recommends leaving a steak on the counter for 20 minutes before cooking it and this is also good advice for cooking ground beef (via Insider).
Not using the original packaging for short-term storage
The USDA advises storing ground beef in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as you get home from the market. There is nothing wrong with keeping ground beef in its original packaging if you only intend to freeze it for a short period of time. If you’re considering long-term storage, you should freeze your ground beef in packages that are tightly sealed.
Using store packaging has a number of advantages, including preventing the production of needless waste. According to a recent study, there are two major issues with plastic produce packaging: it does nothing to prevent spoilage and adds to the global problem of plastic pollution. If significant steps are not taken to reduce its use, plastic waste entering the oceans could triple by 2024, according to National Geographic. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, approximately 14 million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans each year, posing a serious threat to marine life and the safety of food.
Not removing air when you seal your freezer bag
Avoiding freezer burn is one of the most crucial ground beef freezing, thawing, and cooking tips. When anything containing moisture is exposed to air, it can result in freezer burn, which is a form of dehydration (via Inverse). The process is actually quite similar to evaporation. Ground beef exposed to the air in your freezer will slowly lose moisture, just like a bowl of water would if you left it there.
According to Inverse, exposed surface area and air inside a container or bag are the two main factors to take into account when attempting to prevent freezer burn. One method to reduce air exposure inside the bag is to tightly wrap the ground beef in plastic before placing it into the bag. You can also prevent freezer burn by limiting surface area. Pre-portioning your ground beef is a good way to prepare meals, but because it has more surface area, it should be consumed more quickly than unportioned ground beef.
Another effective way to prevent air exposure is to use a vacuum sealer. According to PacFood, its vacuum seal system can keep ground meat fresh for one year, while FoodSaver says its vacuum seal system can keep meat fresh for two to three years — about two to four times longer than ordinary storage methods.
How Rachael Stores Ground Beef In The Freezer | #StayHome
Can you freeze raw ground beef?
Although ground beef can be kept frozen indefinitely, it is best used within four months. As soon as possible after purchase, put ground beef in the refrigerator or freezer. This preserves freshness and slows the growth of bacteria. If the meat will be consumed soon, it can be frozen in its original packaging or kept in the refrigerator.
Can you freeze ground beef in Ziploc bags?
And it’s so easy. Place the raw ground beef in a ziplock freezer bag after removing it from its grocery store packaging. Use a rolling pin (or your hands) to flatten the meat into a sizable, rectangular shape that is about 12-inch thick before you seal the bag. Press out all the air from the bag before closing it.
How do you store ground beef in the freezer after opening?
Transfer the ground beef to a freezer-safe bag and label it with the date if you’ve already opened the packaging. Place the packaged ground beef in a large bowl of cool water when you’re ready to use it, keeping the meat submerged with a heavy object. Allow it to thaw for 5 to 10 minutes.
How do you freeze meat to prevent freezer burn?
Wrapping meat in several layers of plastic wrap, wax paper, or tin foil before freezing will help prevent freezer burn. Pack your items tightly into the container of your choice to help prevent too much air exposure. Try to remove as much air from the bag if you’re using one.