It’s perfectly safe to cook ground beef when it is frozen. The key to success is to adjust your cooking technique and make sure that the food is cooked all the way through.
If you’re a little unsure on how to cook frozen ground beef then you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to talk about why it’s OK to cook this way and exactly what you need to do. Let’s get cooking!
Table of contents
- Can You Cook Frozen Meat?
- So, What About Ground Beef?
- What Is the Best Way to Cook Frozen Ground Beef?
- The Instant Pot
- Pressure Cooker
- Air Fryer
- Tips for Cooking Frozen Ground Beef
- Increase Your Cooking Time
- Waiting to Season
- Mind the Texture
- Check the Temperature
- Defrosting Ground Beef
- Slow Thawing
- Quick Thaw
- Final Thoughts
Can You Cook Frozen Meat?
It’s all well and good understanding about the risks of cooking raw chicken but when it comes to beef, people get a little more confused.
So, What About Ground Beef?
There’s an assumption that raw red meat doesn’t contain the same bacterial risks as white meat. After all, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat a steak that’s barely been shown the pan. We personally are suckers for a piece of super rare steak but that doesn’t mean it comes without risks.
Raw beef, including fresh ground beef can still contain harmful bacteria which could cause food poisoning. The symptoms of this condition could start to show as little as six hours after eating the contaminated meat or might not occur for up to 24 hours.
In any case, cooking ground beef while it is frozen won’t increase the risk of food poisoning as long as the cooked ground beef has been cooked properly.
Bacteria breed in food when it’s at a certain temperature. When you cook ground beef, or anything else for that matter, the high temperatures kill the bacteria, making it safe to eat. This is the case whether the food is fresh or whether you plan to freeze ground beef before cooking.
What Is the Best Way to Cook Frozen Ground Beef?
However, the risk comes when the food is exposed to the danger zone, which is the temperature range where bacteria can breed more quickly. Methods like slow cooking expose the food to this danger zone for a longer period of time so it’s probably best to avoid this when cooking frozen ground beef.
But there are lots of ways that you can safely and effectively cook ground beef when it’s frozen. Let’s take a look at some of the best methods.
If you are looking for a super quick way to cook something to eat and you haven't time to thaw ground beef, then there’s nothing we’d recommend more than your instant pot. You can use this appliance to steam your beef and that is by far one of the best ways to cook it when it’s frozen.
The Instant Pot
To start with, you’ll need to put the ground beef onto a steamer insert, which is often called a trivet. Place this into the pot and you can pretty much guarantee that the beef will cook evenly throughout. What’s more, using the trivet will ensure that the beef doesn’t end up going very dry.
Underneath the trivet, you’ll need to pop a cup of water into the base of the pot. I wouldn’t recommend trying to cook more than about 1800g of ground beef at any one time.
Once everything is ready, you can close the lid and cook the beef for 25 minutes at high pressure. When it’s done, opt for a slow-pressure release and your ground beef will be perfect.
You’ll want to use a slightly smaller amount of beef; perhaps about 900 grams and set your cooker to a high temperature. After around 25 minutes, you can use slow pressure release and your ground beef will be cooked to perfection. You can then use it for a whole host of different recipes like bolognese, pies, and much more.
In most cases, I cook ground beef on the stove when I’m cooking it from chilled. However, it’s also perfectly acceptable to use this method when you have a block of frozen ground beef. The thing you have to keep in mind is that it’ll probably take a lot longer so allow some more time if you’re expecting guests for dinner.
You’ll need to put the block of frozen ground beef into a skillet and add around one inch of water. You don’t need to go over the top with the liquid as it just needs to be enough to cover the base of the pan.
Turn on the heat and allow the water to start simmering, this will cause the ground beef to start turning brown around the outside. You’ll need to scrape off the layers as they cook to uncover the next pink layer. This can take some time and does require more attention than other methods but if you like to be involved with what you’re cooking, it’s perfect.
It’s important to make sure that you keep the water topped up as it will evaporate throughout the cooking process. As long as the bottom of your pan is covered in liquid, you’re good to go. I’d also suggest covering the pan with a lid in between removing the layers of cooked beef.
Eventually, you’ll be left with a small piece of ground beef that’s still frozen. At this point, you can add in things like garlic and onions, allowing the rest of the water to evaporate. The moisture from the veggies will keep the beef moist so there’s no need to add any more water. You’ll notice that it soon becomes soft and you can break it apart using a spatula or spoon. Then just spread it around the pan and wait for it to brown.
Now, this isn’t going to be the best method for every recipe. But if you’re going to use ground beef to make patties then it’s ideal. Better still, you’ll have already made your patties and frozen them before using this method.
It’s simply a matter of popping the patties into the air fryer basket, shutting the lid and letting it work its magic.
You’ll need to cook the frozen patties for around 15 to 20 minutes at 190 degrees Celsius. Although, depending on the size of the frozen burgers, you might need more or less time. As long as the meat is browned all through the patty then it’ll be good to eat. The brilliant thing about this method is that it’s totally uninvolved; none of that scraping off meat like in the previous method.
But while it’s convenient, I have to point out that you might not get the same results as cooking frozen burgers on the grill. The air fryer will take out a lot of the moisture so you’ll end up with far less juicy patties.
Any of the methods I have talked about in this guide are ideal for cooking frozen ground beef but this isn’t something you can tackle without a little extra thought. When cooking any food, including ground beef, from frozen, you’ll need to be a little more attentive. Here are my top tips.
Tips for Cooking Frozen Ground Beef
Probably the most obvious thing when it comes to cooking frozen ground beef is that it’s going to take longer. The meat needs to thaw before it’ll start cooking, which is a step you don’t need to worry about when cooking chilled ground beef.
Increase Your Cooking Time
Generally speaking, you’ll want to add an extra 50% of the usual cooking time but the good news is that ground beef tends to cook very quickly so even from frozen, it isn’t going to take a long time. When I say quick, you’ll have your meal ready in less than half an hour so it’s ideal for those last-minute dinners.
Wait to Season
While there is some suggestion that seasoning after doesn’t taste as good, this doesn’t apply to frozen foods. I guarantee it’ll be worth the wait.
When we cook foods like ground beef from frozen, it’s easy to assume that the texture isn’t going to be as good. When it’s cooking, it can look a little worse for wear but it’s important not to let that bother you too much as it’ll all work out in the end.
Mind the Texture
Once the frozen ground beef has finished cooking, you’ll see that it returns to a texture that’s barely any different than if you had cooked it from fresh. It doesn’t matter which of the methods you use, the end results will almost always be the same. What’s more, unless you go for the air fryer method, the meat will usually be just as tender and juicy; yum!
When cooking ground beef from frozen, one of the most important things is to make sure that the internal temperature is correct. If you’ve not got a food thermometer then I would highly recommend investing in one, especially if you’re going to cook frozen ground beef often.
Check the Temperature
The internal temperature of your meat should be at least 71 degrees celsius before serving. This will ensure that any bacteria are killed off. Moreover, check that the meat is brown right the way through and that no pink areas remain.
When you buy ground beef from the supermarket, it doesn’t usually have a very long date so it’s really common for people to freeze it. Once frozen, it’ll keep for up to four months so you’ll have plenty of time to use it.
Defrosting Ground Beef
But while you can cook ground beef from frozen, a lot of people prefer to defrost it first and there are several ways you can do this. Of course, you have to keep in mind that none of these methods are as quick as simply cooking the beef while it’s still a solid block.
Where possible, I’d recommend thawing your ground beef slowly. This will always yield the best results and will help to retain as much of the texture and moisture as possible.
You’ll need to make sure that you begin the process in plenty of time as this method can take up to 24 hours. If you’re planning a meal in advance then it’s best to use a slow thawing method. Just take the meat out of the freezer 24 hours before you plan to use it and pop it onto a plate. If you’ve frozen the meat in any kind of container, you can leave it in this while it thaws. However, still put it onto a plate to avoid any water from the meat getting into your fridge.
You can then leave the ground beef in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. The good news is that even though it’ll only take 24 hours to defrost, the meat should be safe to use for up to 48 hours.
There may be some instances where the above method is just too slow. Perhaps you have unannounced dinner guests or suddenly have a craving for a cottage pie. In this case, we do have a method that can take as little as one hour, depending on the amount of ground beef you’re looking to defrost.
This method involves thawing the meat in a bowl of cold water. Now, bear with us; we know what you’re thinking. Cold water is only going to prevent it from defrosting, right? Well, not exactly. You see the water will aid the thawing and since it’s cold, it’ll also stop bacteria from being able to develop which is so important.
Start by filling a bowl that’s large enough to hold all of the meat with water and then add the meat. Don’t do it the other way around. You can add ice cubes to the water to keep the temperature down or simply replace the water every so often.
Once the meat is fully defrosted, you’ll want to cook it as soon as possible. Using this method won’t give you that 48-hour window like the slow thaw and it’s really important to remember that because of food safety. On top of this, you’ll also want to keep in mind that this method does stand to spoil the taste and texture of your ground beef so we’d really only recommend it if you’re in dire need.
After the initial few minutes, take the meat out and flip it out, returning it to the microwave and heating it for another two to three minutes.
After this, you’ll need to check and flip the block of ground beef over every 45 seconds. Yes, it’s a bit of an involved method but it gets the job done quickly. Just make sure to cook your beef as soon as it’s defrosted as this will prevent bacteria from building up.
Here are some frequently asked questions about cooking ground beef from frozen:
Q: How long does it take to cook ground beef from frozen?
A: It depends on the method you choose, but plan for extra cooking time since it will take longer to cook the beef from frozen than from thawed.
Q: Can I refreeze ground beef after cooking?
A: No, it is not recommended to refreeze ground beef after cooking. Doing so could increase the risk of bacterial growth and foodborne illness.
Q: Why do people warn against cooking meat from frozen?
A: There are rumors saying that you can't cook frozen meat, largely surrounding chicken. This is because if the meat is not cooked all the way through, there is a risk that the outer parts will cook but the inside will remain partially raw, which could contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella or campylobacter.
Q: Does raw ground beef contain harmful bacteria?
A: Yes, raw beef, including fresh ground beef, can still contain harmful bacteria that could cause food poisoning.
Q: What are the best ways to cook frozen ground beef?
A: There are several methods to safely and effectively cook ground beef when it is frozen, including using an Instant Pot, pressure cooker, stove, or air fryer.
Q: How do I check the temperature of my ground beef to ensure it's cooked properly?
A: You should use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature of your ground beef is at least 71 degrees Celsius before serving.
Q: Do I need to season frozen ground beef before cooking?
A: No, there's no point in adding any seasoning to frozen ground beef because it won't stick to it. It's best to add seasonings and sauces after the meat has finished cooking.
Q: Will the texture of cooked ground beef be affected by cooking it from frozen?
A: No, the texture of cooked ground beef will not be affected significantly by cooking it from frozen.
Ground beef is extremely popular and so versatile; it can be used for a lot of dishes. However, when it freezes, it comes out in a big solid block and the thought of defrosting it for an entire day can be too much.
The good news is that you can cook ground beef from frozen and there are many excellent ways to do this. Just be sure to cook the meat all the way through and ensure no pink spots remain.