Bulk preparation of ground beef for freezing

When I was growing up, my mom would get ground beef on sale and buy extras for the freezer. She always froze hers raw, and thawed and cooked it as-needed for recipes.

So you can guess what I did when we got married! Yep, I always froze raw ground beef and cooked it up every time I needed some... even if I only needed a little bit. Sometimes I would thaw one of those (cheaper) 5-pound logs of ground beef, and we'd be eating hamburger dishes for at least a week.

I had heard others talk about freezing cooked meats, and it always sounded complicated to me. But, as I was expecting our second baby, I decided that I needed to do anything that would make my life easier... even it if meant tackling new things like cooking up huge batches of ground beef! :)

Now, this is basically the ONLY way I put ground beef in my freezer! Here is how I do it:

Meat, onions, and garlic

First, I fry my meat. I do anywhere from 5-25 pounds in one day, frying in batches as large as my skillet(s) can handle. Here you see my cast iron skillet, with about 4.5 pounds of meat.

I generally always fry my meat with at least onions and garlic. Sometimes I add green pepper, also. Most dishes can accommodate those seasonings. It's especially handy if I have onions or green peppers from the garden and need to use them before they spoil.

Per pound of meat, I add:

1 large garlic clove, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced (optional)
salt and pepper (also optional)

Frying the meat

Here you can see the meat and onions and garlic as it is frying. We like lots of onions, because for some reason they don't taste as strong when they've been cooked. Cook and stir your meat until it's fully cooked.

Draining grease from each cooked batch

Once fully cooked, drain the grease from your meat. As soon as you start draining the first batch, you can start frying your second batch. This saves lots of dishes, since you're using only one knife, one cutting board, one skillet, one spatula, and one strainer for all 20+ pounds of meat. Just imagine how much more work it would be if you were doing all that in 2- or even 3-pound batches!

If I am making taco meat, I put the drained meat into a large stainless steel bowl. Then I add additional seasonings.

For Taco Meat, per pound of meat, I add:

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin (or more, if you like cumin)
Tapatio (or other brand) hot sauce, to taste

I always taste the meat to be sure I have enough salt and hot sauce. We find that when the taco meat is frozen and then used weeks or months later, the flavor has really permeated the meat and is extra yummy! Taco meat can be used in any mexican dishes that call for seasoned beef (enchiladas, tacos, taco salad, etc.).

Measuring into freezer bags in smaller portions

And lastly, I measure the meat into freezer bags. Vacuum-packed bags work great, and make for easy re-heating. But plain freezer bags will work, too; I have even used empty clean 16-ounce sour cream containers on occasion, as well. Just remember that the more air that can get to your food, the less time you can store it without freezer burn.

One of my biggest fears with pre-cooking meats was that I wouldn't end up using them, and they would sit in the freezer until they were so freezer-burned that I had to toss them.

I made sure this didn't happen, in part by labeling everything in great detail. I write down what kind of meat (for example, "80% lean ground chuck"), exactly what I added to it (for example, "fried with onions, garlic, salt, and pepper"), and exactly how much I had put into the bag.

Before I started, I also had an idea of some of the dishes I wanted to make with my pre-cooked meat. If you need additional meal ideas for your cooked beef, you can check out our "Leftovers" page. The recipes listed under ground beef are all recipes that use cooked meat!

Comments

I use butter bowls. Although I don't use onion and stuff.

Bethanie, I freeze things in containers, too! But I prefer bags since they seem to fit better into my freezer! I always use containers for soups though. :) But really, it's just whatever I have available! :) It's so handy having the pre-cooked meat! :) Thanks for your comment! :)

I just froze several packs of cooked beef and onion last week. It was from you mentioning it a while back as I had never thought to do that. The onions from our garden had to be used up quick because they were on the verge of starting to spoil. I dehydrated a bunch and then cooked some with the beef. I just guessed the amount of onion that looked about right and then put them in ziplock bags in the freezer. Didn't think to add salt and pepper so I'll just have to whenever I cook with it. :) I'll have to try that taco sauce as it sounds good. :)

That's funny, because our garden onions were spoiling early this year, too... they're all gone now.

Last year I had a lot of bell peppers from the garden and I put several diced bell peppers in eatch batch of meat as I fried it, since I didn't have other uses for them before they went bed!

I sometimes add salt and pepper before freezing, sometimes not. But I think the main thing is that whatever I do add, I am sure to label in detail so I know when I go to use it! :)

I do this too but I actually boil a large amount of hamburger at a time. The dishes I usually use it in I just brown the onion in a little oil if it calls for them to be cooked with the meat. So, I boil it by putting say 5 - 10 pounds in a large pot, add water about half way up the pot and boil until it's no longer pink. Then I drain and rinse to remove more fat and then I bag it up in 1 pound bags I was told that two and a half cups equals one pound.
Jill

I imagine it would be less fatty than fried beef that was drained. Yes?

I think 2.5 cups of cooked ground beef equalling one pound sounds about right. At least, it seems like that is what I get when I do mine! :)

Yes, boiling, rinsing and draining leaves you with meat that is 95% fat free according to some Weight Watchers information I read. I don't miss the fat at all!

Jill

This is one easy tip I have found to freeze ground meat if it is not cooked. Instead of having the meat in 1 large mound in the freezer bag, flatten it out into 1 large, thin piece of meat. They store nicely when you stack them, but the best part is that it only takes a few minutes for them to thaw out.

Susan Sikes
Out of the Nest & Beyond
www.outofthenestandbeyond.com

Funny, my mother did that too - freezing the giant package of raw ground beef and then we'd have to figure out what to eat it with for days (haha). And I, too, looked for a better method and started frying up batches to put in the freezer.

After cooking a big batch, I'll dump into a colander to drain but also give a quick rinse with hot water. Then I'll dump the meat onto cookie sheets lined with several layers of paper towels. After a few minutes, I'll portion out 1-lb ziploc freezer baggies full, squish flat and then label for the freezer. When taking out to use, I'll put it int he microwave, hit defrost 1.0 pound, and then dump into what I'm cooking.

But I'm always on the lookout for an improved method. And I like that you're adding garlic and onions to the mix. I'm going to start doing that too!

I actually just started browning huge batches of ground beef in my crock pot. Much easier than I thought, just stirred every 15 minutes or so. Works AWESOME!

Late to the party, just finding your site, but looks like I will be staying around for a while! ;)

Melissa

This comment is probably a little late, but I have found my roasting pan very useful when my husband buys the 10# log of hamburger meat at Sam's. I put about 5# in the pan, cook it at 350 degrees and every 10 minutes or so I take it out of the oven and use a spatula or potato masher to break the pieces up. Then, I put it back in until all of the meat is browned. (I'm not sure of the time, I just go by how it looks.) Then, I let it cool down a little and put it into the Ziplock quart freezer bags in 1# at a time. I get the air out of the bag and flatten it for easier storage and so that it will thaw quickly.

As for the other 5# of raw meat, I either divide it up into 1# sections or mix some of it up into a meatloaf package to be cooked later.

Thanks for the great post!

I have a question. Every time I cook my hamburger in bulk and freeze it, I find the taste changes. I fry it with onions, drain it and rinse a little with hot water. I then put it in bags but the flavor is funky when I take it out to use it. Any suggestions or ideas of what I may be doing wrong or does this happen with hamburger in general?

Why do you rinse the fried hamburger with hot water?

this is to wash away the fat on the surface resulting in a less fatty product

I always pour boiling water through mine to get the extra fat out. If you do this then you can't fry up the hamburger with the onions and peppers because most of their flavor will be rinsed away when the water is poured through. Anything I do to season the hamburger needs to be done after I strain the fat.

-Incidentally, I usually fry it a bit more after straining it to dry it a bit more, which is when I would usually season it a bit.

I learned a long time ago, the more fat left in your meat the faster it got that semi rancid taste
that frozen fried hamburger gets. I like the boiled hamburger method drain off all the fat, even rinsing as above. You can even put your juices that was drained off, in the fridgerator until the fat comes to surface, remove the fat, and use the remaining juices for beef broth recipes.

this is all good but how long will it keep in the freezer? :) ty :)

Do you mind explaining specifically how you freeze your casseroles/ground beef. Do you have a vacuum packing appliance to seal your bags, you had mentioned something about putting a casserol back into the dish to defrost, do you freeze them and then take them out of the casserole dish for storage in the freezer? I'm getting ready for baby #3 while working full time, so your blog has been extremely helpful!

Thanks,

Sophia

sorry to bother you, I found answers to my questions above on your blog.

How long will the ground beef stay good in the freezer? Assuming I'm using bags and getting out as much air as I can without using the vacuum sealer.

According to USDA...

If ground beef is refrigerated promptly after cooking (within 2 hours; 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F), it can be safely refrigerated for about 3 or 4 days. If frozen, it should keep its quality for about 4 months.

When reheating fully cooked patties or casseroles containing ground beef, be sure the internal temperature reaches 165 °F (73.9 °C).

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