Freezing any food is a great way to extend its lifespan. This, of course, also applies to something like ground beef. However, cooking something frozen can be a challenge when you are in a rush.
So, you forgot to take your ground beef out of the freezer the night before or the morning of. What do you do? Can you cook frozen ground beef without thawing it first?
The simple answer is yes—you can cook frozen ground beef. Although the results might not be as good, it will still work, and it’s perfectly safe. Let’s look at everything you need to know about cooking frozen ground beef, including a few easy methods.
Freezing Ground Beef
Before we talk about cooking frozen ground beef, let’s discuss what you need to know about freezing it in the first place.
Freezing ground beef is a fantastic way to extend its lifespan if you don’t want to use it right away. If you buy ground beef and you don’t want to use it before the expiry date, freezing it is a viable option to keep it good.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, frozen ground beef will stay good indefinitely.
However, the official recommendation is that you do not leave ground beef in the freezer for more than four months before using it. The meat will deteriorate over time and lose flavor and texture.
Some people may have safety concerns about cooking frozen ground beef instead of letting it thaw first. However, there is nothing to worry about—frozen ground beef shouldn’t have any bacteria.
Moreover, the cooking process will kill off any bacteria that are present. Therefore, there are no safety concerns with cooking frozen ground beef.
As long as the ground beef reaches 72° Celsius or 160° Fahrenheit, it should be perfectly fine to consume.
Tips for Freezing Ground Beef
Before we move on, let’s look at a few tips about freezing ground beef.
- If you freeze ground beef and then thaw it, never freeze it again. Freezing defrosted food can be dangerous.
- You should use suitable freezer containers or freezer bags. If there is too much air in the container, the meat will suffer freezer burn.
- The beef will freeze in one large block. Unfortunately, you generally have to thaw or cook it all at once when you use it. Therefore, it is recommended that you freeze ground beef in individual portions that you can use for single meals.
Cooking Thawed Ground Beef vs. Cooking Frozen Ground Beef
There are some significant differences to be aware of in cooking thawed ground beef vs. frozen ground beef.
First, there is a time difference. For example, if you thaw frozen ground beef in the fridge, it could take 24 hours. However, then it only takes a few minutes to cook. However, if you cook frozen ground beef, you don’t need any time to let it thaw out, although it will take longer to cook.
Perhaps the most significant difference concerns the results you achieve. When you fry regular ground beef in the pan, it’s not going to cool the pan down very much and will therefore give the meat a good sear. As a result, you can get a nice brown color on that ground beef that leads to a fantastic texture and excellent taste.
However, when you cook frozen ground beef, it will cool the pan down, which means that instead of searing and frying, that ground beef will boil in its own juices.
You won’t be able to achieve that same texture or flavor. However, the difference may be negligible, especially if the ground beef is incorporated in a recipe with many other ingredients.
How to Cook Frozen Ground Beef in a Pan or Skillet
Next, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions on cooking frozen ground beef in a frying pan or a skillet. You will need a large skillet, frying pan, or saucepan with a lid.
- Put your block of frozen ground beef in the pan, and add about 1/4 cup of water. Turn the pan on medium-low heat and let it cook for two to three minutes.
- Flip the block over, and if needed, add a little more water, and let it cook for another two to three minutes.
- You may see some meat that has already turned brownish-gray on the outside once it starts cooking. Although not dangerous, some people may find it unattractive. If you like, you can scrape off this outer layer.
- After around 6 to 8 minutes of cooking, you should be able to break the big block of frozen ground beef into smaller pieces using something like a wooden spoon.
- You are now well on your way to having thoroughly cooked ground beef. At this point, you should only have to let it cook for another 7 to 10 minutes, maybe 15 minutes, depending on the quantity, and it should then be fully cooked.
At this point, you can use your ground beef for anything you see fit. For example, you can add some vegetables and seasoning to the mix and make a ground beef stir fry.
Cooking Frozen Ground Beef with an Instant Pot
Another good way to cook frozen ground beef is with an Instant Pot. Although this method takes a little longer than a pan, it is much easier because you don’t have to look after it. Remember, you will need a combination Instant Pot/pressure cooker.
- Take your frozen ground beef, put it in the Instant Pot, and ensure the fully sealed lid.
- Set the instant pot to high pressure for around 20 minutes.
- Once this 20-minute period is up, vent or release the pressure for 5 to 10 minutes. You can open the lid.
- You should have completely cooked ground beef that you can use.
As you can see, although the results might not be quite as good as when cooking thawed ground beef, cooking frozen ground beef is doable and safe. There are various methods of doing so, with a pan or an Instant Pot being the two most popular methods.