Ground beef is one of the best ways to save money on meat, though that naturally comes with compromises in quality, since basically, it’s a mix of leftovers from various cuts, adding some undesirable parts or fats. When it comes packed, you might expect the fat to exceed the proteins, though some grocery stores or butcher shops allow you to make your own ground beef by letting you choose the cuts. You can also grind it at home with what you see fit, allowing you to control the fat-protein ratio to your advantage. Ground beef is also very versatile. Some people cook it in big cauldrons for multiple uses and menus during the week or they can even make monthly provisions of it. That leads us to the next question. Can you freeze cooked ground beef? How long does cooked ground beef last in the fridge?
It can definitely be frozen. and it’s a very convenient way to organize your monthly or even yearly menu. Keep in mind that a proper treatment avoids spoilage or a decrease in quality.
In order to freeze it well, you should not leave the ground beef at room temperature for more than two hours after cooking. As soon as it cools down you need to store it as soon as possible in the freezer.
You should also place it in a vacuum-sealed recipient or bag, procuring that no air enters. That way, you’ll avoid freezer burn on your meat.
It’s also very important to handle the beef with a clean spatula. Avoid touching it with the same implement used to handle raw meat or putting it on the same surface, as the freezer might not kill the bacteria that gets into the cooked beef, it only deactivates it for a while. Keep in mind that ground beef is more vulnerable to bacteria exposure since the pathogens can be mixed throughout the meat during grinding, and grinding is done mostly in temperatures considered as “danger zones”.
It can invariably change the flavor and texture of the meat. When you freeze cooked meat, usually the “juice” or oils used for its preparation breaks down and the texture of the meat hardens. In this case, it’s usually recommended to recook it with oil and add some seasoning to restore some of its original gusto. The difference will be more or less discernible depending on factors like the ingredients used or whether it’s contained in another recipe like a sauce or a pie.
Technically you should be able to refreeze it, though keep in mind that the quality decreases after each freezing due to the formation of ice crystals. It also shortens its lifespan since a small amount of bacteria will be getting into it with each defrosting. If you don’t leave the thawed ground beef at room temperature for over 2 hours and you thawed it correctly then it shouldn’t affect the original 4-month window by much.
However, if you reheat it then it should not be refrozen. The best thing you can do before reheating is separate the portion that is going to be consumed in the day and refreeze the remainder.
If stored within 2 hours after cooking, it can stay safe in the fridge for a period of 3 to 4 days.
If frozen, it can last approximately 4 months without a considerable decrease in quality. The freezer should be kept at 0 F or below for optimal preservation.
Perhaps the safest way to defrost it is by putting it in the refrigerator overnight or 24 hours before use. If you are short on time, you can consider putting the frozen bag or recipe in a bowl of cold water over the sink and submerge it for approximately half an hour, check to see if there are any ice pockets or chunks remaining, and leave it a bit longer if necessary. The fastest way to do it is by placing it in the microwave and set it to defrost (or you can skip that step if you plan to eat it directly from the microwave.)
You can also reheat it directly from the freezer by adding it to the recipe you are preparing or by putting it on the pan or cauldron. Keep in mind that if you plan to cook it without thawing, the resulting dish or recipe might be affected due to the moisture and the fact that it takes longer to cook frozen ingredients, so you should probably thaw it first for better results.
“Ground Beef and Food Safety” : https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/meat/ground-beef-and-food-safety
“Can I refrigerate or freeze leftover cooked hamburgers?” : https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/Can-I-refrigerate-or-freeze-leftover-cooked-hamburgers