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Can You Cook Frozen Ground Beef? The Best Way

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You were supposed to take the ground beef out of this morning, but all of a sudden you realize that dinner is supposed to be on the table in an hour. Does this situation sound familiar? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. That’s why we’re here to give you solutions!

You must be wondering, then, can you cook frozen ground beef? The answer is yes, but the manner in which you must do so will vary depending on the method. Though frozen ground beef can be cooked, there are certain modifications that must be made depending on how you plan on cooking it. 

If you read on, you’ll find out which are the best (and worst) ways to cook frozen ground beef.

The Risks of Cooking Frozen Ground Beef

Only certain cooking methods present risks for cooking frozen ground beef.

Cooking slowly in the oven or in a slow cooker puts it at risk of spending too much time in the “danger zone”, creating the possibility for bacteria to grow. 

However, other methods, such as the instant pot, sous vide, and stovetop method, present no risks if proper precautions are taken and the ground beef is cooked for the right amount of time.

Just remember that even if it’s frozen, you are still handling raw meat, so you should always wash your hands and any surface that it touches. 

Ways To Use Ground Beef

Though not every dish or cooking method is fit for cooking frozen ground beef, there are plenty of recipes that will result in easy and delicious meals, such as:  

  • Stovetop Beef Stroganoff
  • Spicy Ground Beef and Tomato Pasta
  • “Unstuffed” Cabbage Skillet
  • Instant Pot Sloppy Joes 
  • Instant Pot Bolognese Sauce
  • Beef Enchiladas
  • Loaded Beef Tater Tots
  • Beef Goulash
  • Beef Taco Salad
  • Lasagna Soup
  • Spicy Beef Lettuce Wraps
  • Cheesy Beef Potato Skins
  • Cheeseburger Pasta

The Best Ways To Cook Frozen Ground Beef

This definitive ranking will help you decide how to cook frozen ground beef should you have to, along with answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding cooking frozen ground beef. 

1. Instant Pot

The best and quickest way to cook frozen ground beef is in an Instant Pot.

If you’re the owner of an Instant Pot or are in the market for one—this is our favorite one—cooking frozen ground beef will be quick and effortless. 

The best way to cook frozen ground beef in an Instant Pot is to steam it.

You’ll want to place your ground beef on a steamer insert (also called a trivet) in the pot so that it cooks through evenly, which will prevent it from drying up. 

Place about a cup of water in the Instant Pot and then insert the trivet with about 2 pounds of ground beef on it (don’t use more than 4 pounds of ground beef at a time).

Close the lid and cook at high pressure for 25 minutes, with a slow pressure release at the end. 

In less than 30 minutes, you’ll have perfectly-cooked ground beef to use in a wide variety of recipes.

2. Pressure Cooker

Very similar to the Instant Pot, a pressure cooker uses trapped steam to cook rapidly.

The only difference is that pressure cookers are the old-fashioned, stovetop version of an Instant Pot. 

You’ll want to use a similar method as with an Instant Pot, placing 1-2 pounds of frozen ground beef on a steaming rack and cooking at a high temperature for about 25 minutes.

Be sure to include a slow pressure release at the end. 

For a super quick, delicious dinner, simply cook some pasta and heat up your favorite brand of pasta sauce. You’ll have an easy, delicious pasta bolognese in less than a half-hour. 

3. Sous Vide

Another extremely easy, hands-off way to cook frozen ground beef is with the sous vide method. You simply grab your ground beef out of the freezer, pop it in some water, turn on the sous vide (this is our favorite one), and voila!

For this method, it’s important to make sure that your ground beef is in an airtight bag.

Any Ziplock freezer bag will do, but if you have special sous vide vacuum seal bags, this would be the time to use them.

Be sure to completely submerge the bag in water before cooking. 

When sous vide cooking meat that is still frozen, you’ll want to cook it about 60 minutes longer than its normal cook time.

You would normally sous vide cook thawed ground beef for an hour at 137 degrees F, so for frozen ground beef, maintain the same temperature but just add on 60 minutes, making the total cook time 2 hours

Once your ground beef is ready, you have dozens of creative ways to serve it. Throw together some cheesy pepperoni and beef roll-ups or use it as a pizza topping to make a cheeseburger pizza. 

4. Stove

Though people most commonly cook thawed ground beef on the stove, there is no problem in cooking it from frozen!

Though it may take a little longer and requires a distinct method, cooking frozen ground beef on the stove is one of the best ways to cook frozen ground beef. 

Take your frozen ground beef and place it in a skillet with about an inch of water, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.

As the water begins to simmer, the meat will start to brown on the outside. Gradually scrape off the browned layer, revealing the uncooked pink layer inside.

As it evaporates, be sure to add more water, always ensuring that the bottom of the pan is covered. Place a lid on the pan, removing it to break off the browned ground beef every few minutes.

Once you only have a small piece of frozen ground beef left, add some aromatic vegetables, such as onions, garlic, and celery, and let the water evaporate (at this point, the juices from the vegetables will help to keep the meat moist). 

Once the ground beef is soft enough to separate entirely, break it apart with a spatula and stir, making sure that all sides are browned and cooked evenly.

This method is great for a variety of dishes, such as Sloppy Joes or as a mac and cheese topping. Get creative and make taco pizza with a spicy sauce and Mexican cheese blend. 

5. Air Fryer

Believe it or not, you can even cook frozen ground beef in an air fryer! Though it’s not the most popular method, cooking frozen ground beef in an air fryer can yield great results, especially if your ground beef is in hamburger patty form. 

Put your frozen ground beef patties in your air fryer basket and close the lid.

Cook at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until the meat is browned all the way through. This is a quick, hands-off way to prepare frozen hamburger patties.

Just note that preparing frozen hamburger patties in the air fryer will yield distinct results from grilling them. They may not be as juicy and will lack the grill marks that some people value in a burger. 

6. Oven

Another method that is specifically fit for cooking frozen hamburger patties, it is possible to cook frozen ground beef in the oven.

Simply preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a baking sheet.

Spread your hamburgers out on the baking sheet and cook for about an hour, or until fully cooked through.

To ensure that your hamburger doesn’t stick, put a piece of aluminum foil under it before baking. 

7. Grill

Having a barbeque and forgot to thaw those hamburger patties? No need to fret! Though they are typically (and ideally) grilled after having been defrosted, hamburger patties can also be grilled frozen. 

To do so, preheat your grill over medium heat for at least 10 minutes, ensuring that it is fully preheated before placing your frozen patties.

Turn your patties every 3-5 minutes, cooking for at least 20 minutes (this will ensure that your hamburgers cook evenly on both sides).

To make sure that your hamburgers are fully cooked, use a meat thermometer, ensuring that their interior temperature has reached at least 160 degrees F. 

The Worst Ways To Cook Frozen Ground Beef

1. Crockpot/Slow Cooker

Cooking frozen ground beef in a crockpot or slow cooker is a tricky topic. Putting a large block of frozen ground beef into a crockpot is not at all a good idea.

The slow cooking time can promote bacteria growth, and because of its density, the block of ground beef can remain in a dangerous temperature zone, between 40 and 140 degrees F, for an extended period of time.

This could potentially cause salmonella to grow, and we wouldn’t want that. 

However, if your frozen ground beef has already been cooked (in the case of frozen meatballs, for example), you can safely cook it in a crockpot without worrying about food safety issues.

To make some delicious and easy slow cooker meatballs, throw some pre-cooked frozen meatballs into a crockpot with diced onion and barbeque sauce.

Cook on high heat for 2.5 hours or on low heat for 4 hours. Serve over mashed potatoes and you’ll have an easy, delicious dinner on the table with very little effort. 

2. Microwave

Though the microwave is a suitable method for defrosting ground beef, you definitely shouldn’t cook ground beef in it.

Ground beef needs to be browned, something that simply cannot be achieved when cooking in the microwave. 

To defrost ground beef in the microwave, take it out of its packaging and place it on a microwave-safe plate.

Microwave the ground beef on medium power for 3 minutes for every pound, being sure to rotate it every minute or so to ensure even cooking on each side. 

Related Questions About Frozen Ground Beef

Keep reading to learn more about frozen ground beef. We hope to answer all of your questions by the time you read the entire article!

What is the best way to defrost frozen ground beef?

There are a number of ways to defrost frozen ground beef, and the best one for you just depends on how much time you have.

The quickest way to thaw frozen ground beef is in the microwave, a method that we outlined above. The microwave method should only take up to five minutes. 

However, if you aren’t under a time crunch, there are a few other methods that you can try.

If you don’t need to cook your ground beef for a couple of hours, simply transfer it from the freezer to the fridge, and it will thaw in a few hours.

You can thaw frozen ground beef in the fridge 1 to 2 days before cooking it, so if you’re a planner, take it out of the freezer the day before you plan on cooking it. That way, you’re assured that it will be thawed on time. 

Another method for thawing frozen ground beef is in cold water. Put the ground beef in an airtight plastic bag and submerge in cold water.

You should change the water every 30 minutes, ensuring that it never gets too warm, and cook the ground beef immediately after it thaws. 

Can you brown meat from frozen?

As you can see, it is possible to cook ground beef on the stove from frozen, browning it in the process.

However, there are certain recipes that call for browning ground beef directly in a crockpot or dutch oven, in which case it would be ideal to use ground beef that has already been defrosted. 

Does ground beef taste better if you cook it from thawed instead of frozen?

Depending on the recipe that you want to make and the method that you use, ground beef tastes just as good when cooked from frozen as when thawed!

There are, however, a few important considerations to keep in mind. 

Because you cannot season ground beef when frozen, be sure to sufficiently season it after it has cooked.

As most frozen ground beef must be cooked in water, if you are adding it to a sauce, be sure to cook it for a little while in the sauce so that it soaks in some of the flavors. 

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