It’s always helpful to have an extra pound of ground beef on hand for quick dinners, like hamburgers, tacos or this spaghetti skillet. But you can only keep ground beef in the refrigerator for one or two days, and then it needs to be tucked away in the freezer for later.
Best Way to Freeze Ground Beef
There are two important things to remember about ground beef: storing it at the correct temperature and timeliness. If you stock up on ground beef while grocery shopping, go home immediately afterward. You’ll want to keep the meat at 40° F or below for safety. This will slow the growth of bacteria, like E. coli, and help maintain the freshness of your meat.
If you plan on using the meat ASAP, keep it in the store-bought packaging. However, if you plan on storing it away for longer, portion out the ground beef as needed and wrapping each piece in heavy-duty plastic wrap, freezer paper, aluminum foil or plastic freezer bags.
How Long Can You Freeze Ground Beef?
Technically, ground beef can stay frozen indefinitely, but you’ll be sacrificing quality as time passes. Your frozen ground beef is best used within four months.
We recommend marking the date on each portion of ground beef. This will help you keep an eye on storage times and use meat that’s been frozen longest first.
How to Defrost Ground Beef
You’re preparing to make your famous spaghetti and meatballs tonight for dinner. Of course, you’ll need a couple pounds of your frozen ground beef!
The safest way to defrost frozen ground beef is in the refrigerator. Keeping the meat cold while allowing it to defrost keeps harmful bacteria from growing and spreading before cooking begins. It’s important to note that this method could take up to a day or more, so plan ahead if possible.
Should you need to defrost the meat quicker, you can use the microwave or a bowl of cold water. When using the microwave, make sure to cook the meat immediately after it’s ready, because some parts may have starting cooking during the defrosting process. If using cold water, place the meat in an airtight bag and submerge in the bowl of cold water. Then, change the water every 30 minutes until it’s thawed and cook immediately afterward.
You may notice that some parts of the ground beef have turned gray after freezing—but that meat is safe to eat.
Keep an Eye on the Danger Zone
The “Danger Zone” refers to temperatures between 40° and 140° F. Harmful bacteria multiply quickly within the Danger Zone, so it’s important to never leave ground beef at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.