Do you have lots of ground beef and don’t quite know what to do with it? Wondering how to store ground beef in the freezer without taking up too much space? We’ve got some great tips for you! We buy ground beef in bulk during our local sales to use in recipes like this Homemade Hamburger Helper. We’ve found the best way to freeze ground beef that both saves space and cuts down on thawing time. If only we had figured this out years earlier!
How to Store Ground Beef: Safety First
When storing and cooking meats, your primary concern should, of course, be food safety. So here are a few guidelines from the U. S. Department of Agriculture on storing ground beef.
How Long Can You Freeze Ground Beef?
If you’re wondering how long can you freeze ground beef, you’re not alone. Generally speaking, if it’s properly stored in the freezer, frozen ground beef is good for up to 4 months. This assumes that you’ve used freezer storage bags or freezer paper and the like. If you’re storing the frozen ground beef in its original store packaging, I’d recommend using it within a couple of weeks. I’ve found that anything longer than that with the original store packaging usually leads to freezer burn and/or a bad flavor. Although food with freezer burn is safe to eat, you’ll probably find that the flavor and texture are not to your liking.
Tips for Thawing Frozen Ground Beef
Remember to safely defrost your ground beef after freezing. You can defrost it in the refrigerator for a day or two, or if you’re in a hurry, defrost it in the microwave instead. Your microwave will have settings for defrosting meat according to the weight of the ground meat and according to your microwave’s wattage settings. If you’re defrosting it in the refrigerator, remember to set it on a plate. Otherwise, the package may leak, and you’ll have blood on your fridge shelves, which is both gross and unsanitary.
You can also thaw the frozen ground beef in cold water. Place the baggy of ground beef in a bowl of cold water, and keep it submerged with a heavy plate or bowl. The ground meat should thaw in about 15-30 minutes, but remember to change the water every 15 minutes or so. Never allow it to come into contact with warm water as this could result in dangerous bacteria growth.
You should never defrost hamburger meat on the counter; this allows unsafe bacteria to grow.
How Long Can You Store Uncooked Ground Beef In The Refrigerator?
Raw ground beef stored in the refrigerator should be used within 1-2 days after purchasing, according to USDA guidelines. I’ve found this to be the optimal time, too. But if you’ve purchased discount meat, you’ll want to either cook it or freeze it as soon as possible.
How Long Can You Store Cooked Ground Beef?
Cooked ground beef can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. It can be stored in the freezer for about 4 months before deteriorating. Technically, according to the USDA, frozen ground beef is safe to eat “indefinitely.” Growing up, my family would store some meats for much longer than that, and we never once got sick from food. However, the taste of the ground beef definitely degrades over longer periods.
More Ground Beef Freezer Storage Tips
Want to save space in your freezer? When separating your bulk ground beef into 1 pound freezer bag, flatten the meat out and then stack the bags. I don’t know why I never thought of that before, but my husband pointed it out to me, and it saves so much space! We use quart-size storage bags, which are the perfect size for one pound of meat. Here’s how ours looks in the freezer:
This is embarrassing to admit, but before I did it this way, I just squished a pound of ground beef into a roll or ball or patties and shoved them into a freezer bag. This method cuts way down on thawing time, too.
Do you have a freezer storage tip for ground meat? Share it with us in the comments! If you liked this post on how to store ground beef, you may enjoy some of our popular ground beef recipes!