Ground beef is one of the most popular meat choices for dinner. When it comes to thawing frozen ground beef, you’ve got three safe choices — and one method you’ll need to avoid.
Here’s what you need to know about how to defrost ground beef safely:
(1) Thawing Ground Beef in the Refrigerator
This is the easiest method for defrosting ground beef — but it also takes the longest amount of time, so you’ll need to plan ahead.
· Keep the frozen ground beef in its original, wrapped package and place on a plate or tray that will prevent the ground beef juices from dripping on other foods.
· Place the frozen ground beef in the fridge — be sure your refrigerator temperature is set at 40 °F or below.
· You’ll need to allow about 24 hours for each pound of frozen ground beef you plan to thaw in the fridge.
· Here's how long it takes to defrost ground beef in the fridge (approximately):
-Half a pound: 12 hours
-1 pound: 24 hours
-1.5 pounds: 1 day plus 12 hours
-2 pounds: 2 full days
Do you have to cook the frozen ground beef as soon as it’s thawed? No — as long as the ground beef was thawed in the refrigerator. Ground beef that’s been defrosted in the refrigerator can be kept for an additional 1 to 2 days in the fridge before cooking.
Another plus of thawing ground beef in the refrigerator: If your plans change and you decide not to cook the ground beef at all, you can safely refreeze the defrosted ground beef within 1 to 2 days (although there may be some loss of quality).
(2) Thawing Ground Beef in Cold Water
You can defrost your frozen ground beef much faster in cold water. But compared to refrigerator thawing, the process will require a lot more attention on your behalf.
· Make sure the frozen ground beef is in a leak-proof package or plastic bag.
· To thaw the ground beef, submerge the bag in cold tap water — never use warm or hot water, as that can cause the outer layer of the food to heat up to a temperature where harmful bacteria begins to multiply.
· Change the water every 30 minutes, to ensure that it stays cold enough.
· Using this thawing method, you should estimate about 60 minutes of defrosting time per pound of ground beef.
· Here's how long it takes to defrost ground beef in cold water (approximately):
- Half a pound: 30 minutes
-1 pound: 1 hour
-1.5 pounds: 90 minutes
-2 pounds: 2 hours
If you’ve used the cold water method to defrost your ground beef, you’ll need to cook the ground beef as soon as it’s completely thawed.
You shouldn’t refreeze raw ground beef that’s been defrosted in cold water. Once you’ve cooked the ground beef, though, you can then refreeze it, if you wish.
(3) Thawing Ground Beef in the Microwave
The fastest way to defrost ground beef is in the microwave.
· Check the owner’s manual of your microwave for the minutes per pound and the power level to use for thawing.
· Remove all outside wrapping.
· Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that might leak.
If you defrost your ground beef in the microwave, you’ll need to cook it immediately after it’s thawed.
How Not to Defrost Frozen Ground Beef
You should never thaw frozen ground beef on the counter at room temperature or in hot water. Under either of those methods, the outer layer of the ground beef can sit between the bacteria-breeding temperatures of 40°F and 140 °F for too long to be safe.
(Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site for more information on safely defrosting ground beef.)
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