If you do it right you can have ground beef already browned and packaged loosely enough that you can scoop out however much you need for any particular recipe. Here’s how I do it.
- Fresh or frozen ground beef
A NOTE ABOUT USING FROZEN BEEF: If you’re buying your beef from the grocery store you should try to time it so you’re cooking with fresh beef. It is not recommended to thaw beef and then refreeze it. However, if you are buying beef from your local farmer it will usually be frozen solid already when you pick it up. In that case I have no concerns about thawing it and then refreezing it this way. This is because it has been frozen so quickly and in such a fresh state. If you question how your beef was handling don’t be afraid to ask your farmer and/or your processor.
Thaw beef completely. I thaw mine by placing the frozen packages in a large metal bowl and filling with hot water. It will thaw in several hours setting out on the counter or a couple days in the fridge. I wouldn’t set it out on a really warm day, other than that I don’t get concerned about thawing at room temperature. We haven’t had any problems. Still, the practice isn’t recommended by food safety experts. Do what you’re comfortable with.
When the beef has thawed, pour in to a hot frying pan or skillet. I use our large, deep, electric skillet set at 350 F. It comfortably holds 4 pounds at a time. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until no pink remains. DO NOT DRAIN. Instead, use a slotted spatula to transfer meat to an ungreased cake pan. This will leave most of the fat in the skillet but carry over enough to maintain moisture in the finished product. Transfer a maximum of 2 pounds of beef to each cake pan. Set out at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until steam no longer escapes when you stir. Place on a level surface in your freezer. Stir well every 30 minutes or so until the entire contents appears frozen and can’t be squished with your fingers. Pour into Ziploc bags or other airtight containers. Label with “Pre-cooked Ground Beef” and freeze.
This can be added to spaghetti sauce or heated in a pan for tacos, sandwich spreads, or pretty much any recipe that calls for browned ground beef. It sure makes getting dinner together in a pinch a lot easier!