Ground beef is a fairly common addition to many dishes in North American cooking. Typically bought in quantities of least a pound, finding exactly the right amount of ground beef can be difficult. Pairing the right amount of ground beef with a meal can be a challenge too.
Ground beef is also very easy to freeze for the future. It’s so easy that some American families who either have more than a few people or who host parties will buy a ‘half a cow.’ The term isn’t really an exaggeration and generally represents purchasing over 200 pounds of beef for freezing.
Whether you are freezing one pound or way more than one pound, there are a few methods to use to freeze beef. You can readily portion ground beef ahead of time and even compress it to make it fit into a cold storage space better. Read the rest of the article for more specifics and tips.
What should I put ground beef in for freezing?
Let’s clarify one thought about this question. This particular question relates only to freezing ground beef that’s still frozen or fresh from the grocery store.
The most efficient, cheapest, and safest method of freezing ground beef is using zip lock bags.
- Pre-portion the beef and label the bag with the amount of beef, by weight, on the bag. A frozen block of beef might feel heavier. You’ll want to ensure you are pulling the right amount of beef for the recipe.
- Put the portioned beef into the bag. If the beef is fresh, you can also consider using a rolling pin or weighted object to flatten the beef.
- The rolling pin will also help push excess oxygen out of the bag. Don’t worry if some juices flow out, they will stay in the bag.
- Put the zip lock bag of beef in the fridge.
- Remove when ready. The flattened beef is also going to be much easier to defrost than a big chunk of beef.
How do I avoid freezer burn while freezing beef?
Some freezers are really cold. Freezer burn is possible, which will degrade the quality of the beef. You can also wrap a freezer bag of meat in aluminum foil to keep the beef from extreme cold.
I don’t have a rolling pin. How else can I remove the oxygen?
A straw works too.
- Put the portioned beef in the bag.
- Place a straw in the bag
- Start sealing the bag with the straw poking out through an unsealed part of the mouth of the tag.
- Suck the remaining oxygen out.
- Quickly remove the straw and completely seal the bag.
I don’t have ziploc bags. Can I use anything else to freeze ground beef?
You certainly can. A few other suggestions are
- Butcher paper. You know that non descript brown or white paper you get when you buy fresh beef from the grocery store or butcher? This paper is meant for freezing. Rewrap the butcher paper on tight – and tape shut if necessary. Butcher paper also makes a good first wrap.
- Wax paper. Wax paper is commonly used in baking and cooking. The paper also makes a good layer for protecting beef against cold and oxygen. Consider using it with or without a ziplock bag.
Any common kitchen items I should not use?
We don’t suggest using plastic cling wrap. The wrap can stick to the meat. Cling wrap is more for a refrigerator covering.
You are advised not to put ground beef in your fridge uncovered. The beef will almost certainly get freezer burned.
How soon should I freeze recently purchased ground beef? Is the store container OK?
The store container will work for a couple weeks. The containers don’t tend to be very well sealed and are made for chilling in a fridge. If you plan to keep ground beef in the freezer for more than a couple weeks, consider removing it from the package and using our suggestions above.
If I do it right, how long will ground beef keep in the freezer?
The answer is just about indefinitely, and at good quality. The two worst things for a freezer full of meat are excess air, a lack of protection from oxygen, and a power outage. You can’t control the power outage well, so just don’t open the freezer until you have to.
Freezing ground beef for future use is quite easy. Beef users can temporarily store the meat in the original container, a zip lock bag, or the butcher’s packaging. Many of these items can be found cheap and plentiful at the grocery store.
Consider using some level of organization too. As we suggested, write the amount of beef on the bag or packaging along with the date packaged so you can better prepare for meals. Have you thought about how to freeze gravy too?