How to Thaw Frozen Ground Beef [3 Easy Options!]

by Charlie
Published: Last Updated on
Frozen ground beef

Ground beef is one of the most versatile and cost-effective proteins to keep on hand in your freezer. Whether it is for juicy burgers on the grill for a family cookout, a delicious Bolognese sauce for an Italian-inspired pasta dinner for two, or a comforting meatloaf like Mom used to make, the possibilities are endless when it comes to ground beef!

Before you can start cooking, you will need to safely defrost the big rectangular rock of frozen ground beef. The options for thawing frozen ground beef all depend on how much time you have.

How do you thaw frozen ground beef? You can safely thaw frozen ground beef by placing in the refrigerator, submerging in cold water, or heating in the microwave.

There is a fourth option, but it requires specialized equipment. We’ll talk about that one a little later.

Food Safety Tips When Thawing Frozen Ground Beef

Before we get to the options for thawing frozen ground beef, it is very important to first talk about how to do it safely! We have all heard the stories of people thawing frozen ground beef on the counter all day and this is definitely not an option anyone should choose!

It is critical that the meat maintain a safe temperature of no more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit while you defrost the frozen ground beef to prohibit any harmful bacteria growth and prevent any food-borne illnesses. It is also important to keep the ground beef in a leak-proof package or zip-top bag to contain any juices as it thaws to prevent any cross-contamination. Now that safety is covered, let’s get to thawing your frozen ground beef!

Options for Thawing Frozen Ground Beef

Here are the popular options for thawing frozen ground beef. These methods are easy to do and can be used depending on the amount of time that you have to defrost the beef.

Thawing Frozen Ground Beef in the Refrigerator – 24 Hours

This option for defrosting frozen ground beef is easiest but it also takes the longest.

If you plan ahead and know that you are going to use ground beef the next day, simply put the package of frozen ground beef into a leak-proof bag on a plate or tray and place it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. Placing the meat on the bottom shelf and away from other products ensures that there is little chance of any cross-contamination.

Leave the frozen ground beef in the refrigerator for 24 hours and you are good to go! If you decide to not use it immediately, you can safely keep the thawed ground beef in the refrigerator for up to two days. If the ground beef has been kept in the refrigerator the whole time, it is safe to refreeze it if you decide not to use it at all.

(Be warned, refreezing ground beef and defrosting a second time may change the texture of the meat due to the formation of ice crystals and added water content.)

Thawing Frozen Ground Beef in Cold Water – 2 hours

If you figure out what you want for dinner a couple hours beforehand, not to worry. The next option, thawing in cold water, is almost as simple as the first. To defrost frozen ground beef in cold water, place the package of beef into a zip-top bag and seal tightly making sure to remove as much air as possible.

Fill a container with cold water and drop in the bag of ground beef. If the bag floats, use a small plate or sauce pot to weigh it down so that it thaws evenly. Be sure to change the water every 30 minutes until completely thawed. You may be tempted to use warm or hot water to thaw the ground beef, but this will heat the outer layer of the beef quicker and risk harmful bacteria growth.

In about two hours, the ground beef will be thawed and ready to cook. Be sure to cook the ground beef immediately.

Thawing Frozen Ground Beef in the Microwave – Less than 5 minutes

If you forgot to plan for taco night and need to defrost ground beef very quickly, it’s time for the microwave. More often than not, using the microwave to defrost frozen proteins isn’t the best solution and should still only be used as a last resort.

With that said, if you need to thaw frozen ground beef with the quickness, remove all the original packaging and put the frozen beef on a microwave-safe plate and place in the microwave.

Wattage, power, and defrost settings can vary greatly from machine to machine, so be sure to go by the manufacturer’s recommended time when using the microwave to defrost frozen ground beef. Generally speaking, most modern microwaves have a “defrost” setting with cook times varying depending on the weight of the product.

Follow the instructions given by the microwave, but always keep a close eye and check the progress every 45 seconds or so to prevent any premature cooking. You can also microwave the frozen ground beef at 50% power for 2 to 3 minutes, flipping the beef every 30 seconds, until it is completely defrosted.

One Final Option – Sous Vide Method

For those with access to a vacuum sealer and an immersion circulator with a minimum temperature range of 32 degrees, you can easily thaw frozen ground beef using the sous vide method.

Remove the frozen ground beef from the original packaging, place it into a vacuum bag, and seal with 100% pressure. Drop the bag into an ice water bath with the circulator set to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. It will take about an hour to completely thaw the ground beef.

If you don’t have the time to wait for your frozen ground beef to thaw, Sweet & Savory Meals has a super easy recipe on How to Cook Frozen Ground Beef in the Instant Pot.

Final Thoughts

  • Frozen ground beef is not only inexpensive but also incredibly versatile and can be used in countless dishes.
  • Defrosting overnight in the refrigerator is the easiest method for thawing frozen ground beef but also takes the most time.
  • By defrosting in the refrigerator, you have up to 2 days to use it or you can safely refreeze it if you decide not to cook it.
  • Submerging frozen ground beef in water to thaw is the next best option and takes only a couple of hours.
  • If you’re in a time crunch, utilizing the “defrost” setting on the microwave is a last resort option but be sure to keep an eye on the progress to prevent cooking the meat.
  • If you happen to have the equipment, thawing frozen ground beef via sous vide is super easy and takes about an hour.

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