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:
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)
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.
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.).
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!