Sharing one of my biggest time-saving meal prepping secrets with you-how to prep ground beef for freezer for a quick dinner or lunch. I freeze cooked ground hamburger in one-pound freezer bags, ten pounds at a time. I have been doing this for the better part of a decade. It is a part of my meal plan strategy and a great way to have healthy meals on a busy weeknight and avoid fast food.
How Many Pounds
Ten pounds of lean ground beef is the sweet spot for my family of four - two adults, a teenage boy, and a preteen girl. For your smaller family, it may be five pounds; likewise, it may be twenty pounds if you have a large family or eat many meals with cooked ground beef.
We usually go through ten pounds in three weeks. However, that can vary greatly if we plan more chicken or pork meals and also if we are busier and need a pound of ground beef for quick meals my whole family loves, like sloppy joes or nachos made out of delicious taco meat.
How To Freeze Cooked Hamburger
Twelve Steps to Prep Ground Beef for Freezer
- Defrost Hamburger
Take out ten pounds of frozen hamburger or purchase ten pounds of ground beef from the grocery store. Defrosting frozen ground beef the entire time in the fridge is the easiest and safest way.
- Place Raw Hamburger in Skillets
Take out two of your largest skillets. Open a package of meat and place up to two pounds of raw hamburger in each skillet. If your skillet is small, do one pound of raw hamburger at a time. Do not overcrowd the pan, or your hamburger will steam versus fry.
- Distribute the Raw Hamburger to Cover the Surface Area of the Skillet
Allow the raw hamburger to cook undisturbed until the hamburger begins to sear. You want the hamburger to get a Maillard reaction. To me, the Maillard reaction is the smell of hamburgers on the grill in the summer. When you experience that smell while cooking ground beef, you know you are getting a Maillard reaction.
- Season the Ground Beef
Building flavors and seasoning your raw hamburger with salt and pepper is essential to obtain the best flavor. If you want to add garlic powder or all-purpose seasoning, do whatever you normally do when cooking a pound of hamburger. Delicious ground beef recipes start with well-seasoned cooked ground beef.
- Turn the Hamburger
Next, you will want to flip the large pieces of hamburger and allow the other side to sear and get the Maillard reaction.
- Crumble the Hamburger
Now you will want to break the large pieces of semi-cooked hamburger into small pieces. You will see pink meat in this phase, and that is ok. It will continue to cook. You should also see some caramelized seared pieces too, which is excellent! Those pieces are your delicious crumbles!
You can use a straight-edge wooden spoon for this or a fancy tool specifically designed to help break up cooked hamburger into small crumbles. The best part, the fancy tool is fun to use!
- Cook Until There is No Pink
Keep cooking over medium heat and stirring until you no longer see any pink pieces of hamburger left in your skillet.
- Drain the Grease
Please do not drain your hot grease down your kitchen sink drain. Hot grease, or any grease, is horrific for your pipes. The grease cools and creates a sludge coating on your pipes. I drain each batch of cooked hamburger into a large bowl. If you use lean ground beef, there should not be much grease. Once I am done cooking all the pounds of hamburger, I will pour the lukewarm grease into a used container in the garbage. For this batch, it was an empty yogurt cup. It worked like a charm!
- Cool Your Cooked Hamburger
You will want to freeze the cooled cooked hamburger completely for your freezing step. I will chill my cooked hamburger in the refrigerator overnight to ensure all the hamburger is cool. Cover your cooked hamburger in plastic wrap so it will not dry out.
- Label Your Bags or Containers
Label your freezer-safe zip-top bags with the date and contents. Freezer tape also works for this if you use freezer-safe or glass containers. This is important if you also use this trick for other meats like Italian sausage, ground turkey, or pork sausage… ask me how I know.
- Package Your Cooked Meat
Two cups of cooked ground beef is one pound. You will want to memorize this to know how much-cooked meat to put in each labeled bag. If you have a large family and want to put two pounds in each bag, you would put four cups of ground beef. Likewise, if you want to create a half-pound bag, you would only put one cup of meat.
Grab a freezer basket or something to corral your bags of cooked hamburger and place them in your freezer. This is one of the best ways to make sure you use all your meal prepped cooked hamburger before making another round.
How to use Frozen Cooked Hamburger
I like to defrost the cooked hamburger just enough to break it up. In my microwave, that is about a minute on defrost. Add it to my skillet and add homemade taco seasoning for easy recipes like tacos, nachos, burritos, and rice bowls. If I am making sloppy joes, spaghetti, or a ground beef casserole, I will defrost until I can separate frozen cooked beef. I will also skip the defrost step if I make Instant Pot beef spaghetti.
If you have thawed your hamburger in the fridge the entire time, so no countertop thawing, no cold water method thawing, just freezer-to-fridge thawing - your hamburger should remain safe and good quality for an additional day or two before cooking. Also, if your hamburger is thawed, but you don’t have time to cook it, you can refreeze it. You will lose a bit of quality doing this, but you will not have to toss the hamburger! The USDA has great food safety knowledge and is a safe place to obtain any specific guidelines on thawing meat.
Well-packaged frozen ground beef will last indefinitely in the freezer but will lose quality over time. Freezer burn is a real problem, but the beef is still safe to eat.
You prepped too many pounds of hamburger and are now worried they won’t last. You have four months before you start losing significant quality of the cooked beef. Plans some meals that use cooked hamburger - tacos for a week? I’m in!
Two cups of cooked hamburger equals one pound of hamburger. If a recipe calls for one pound of hamburger, two cups of cooked hamburger will be enough.
Weeknight meals require minimal effort and simple ingredients the entire family loves! Easy delicious recipes call for one pound of ground beef, which starts with cooking ground beef in a skillet. Skip that step and go straight to the next one. It is one of my favorite ways to make an easy dinner. Ground beef meal prep recipes include spaghetti, tacos, nachos, sloppy joes, quesadillas, tater tot hotdish, taco soup, lasagna, pizza bake, taco salad, taco pie, and even hamburger helper. The possibilities are endless, and it is such a time saver and a great starting point for meal planning!
Creating your favorite healthy ground beef recipes for easy meals is an easy way to avoid paying for fast food when you have food at home. It makes meal planning easier because you know how much prepped cooked beef is in your freezer, and it is one less step on a busy night. It is also a way to make a healthy dinner versus a frozen dinner - which is more expensive and probably not as healthy as your home-cooked meal.