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Why You Should Fill Your Freezer With Cooked Ground Beef

raw ground beef in a crockpot and cooked ground beef in a plastic bag

If I had a nickel for every time I forgot to thaw the pound of ground beef that I was planning to use for dinner, I’d be a rich woman! I forget about thawing much more frequently than I remember to do it, which means I end up attempting to speed up the defrosting process in the microwave.

But that just makes it thaw unevenly, so I scrape the thawed part off and put it back in the microwave, then repeat the process 3 or 4 more times until it’s finally thawed all the way through. And that’s just to thaw it — after that, I still have to cook it!

cooked ground beef in plastic bags

But I’ve figured out an alternative that helps me avoid this ordeal. I now cook several pounds of ground beef at once, then freeze it in one-pound portions. That way, it’s no big deal if I forget to thaw the beef before dinnertime because it’s already cooked and will thaw in no time!

Plus, I discovered not one, but two time-saving methods for doing it. Keep reading to learn how to cook big batches of ground beef in your slow cooker or Instant Pot.

How To Cook Ground Beef In A Slow Cooker

Step 1 - Break The Hamburger Up Before Cooking

Step 1 – Break The Hamburger Up Before Cooking

Put a few pounds of ground beef into your slow cooker, then use clean hands or a spoon to break it up a bit.

Step 2 - Cook On High

Step 2 – Cook On High

Put the lid on the slow cooker, then cook the beef on High for 2 to 4 hours. (The actual cooking time will vary based on the amount of meat you’re cooking, but just as a point of reference, we cooked 3 pounds of meat here and it was done in about 2 hours.)

Related: Overcooked Meat? How To Salvage It And Save The Day

Step 3 - Stir Halfway Through Cooking

Step 3 – Stir Halfway Through Cooking

Halfway through the cooking time, break the meat up more and give it a good stir. (As far as how to crumble ground beef, I find that a potato masher works well for that.)

Replace the lid and continue cooking.

Step 4 - Drain The Cooked Beef

Step 4 – Drain The Cooked Beef

When the meat is fully cooked, you’ll need to drain it before dividing it up and freezing it. The best way to drain ground beef is to put a sieve or colander over an old can or a foil-lined dish, then carefully pour the beef and fat into the colander. (Just let the fat solidify, then throw it away — much better than having it clog up your plumbing!)

The amount of fat you’ll drain off the beef will depend on how much it has to begin with. Most people use 85 ground beef or 90 ground beef, with 15% fat content and 10% fat content, respectively. (If you’d like, you can reduce the fat content even more by rinsing the cooked beef under warm water.)

Step 5 - Divide And Freeze

Step 5 – Divide And Freeze

Once the meat has cooled a bit, divide the meat into equal portions in freezer-safe ziplock bags. Put the bags in your fridge until the beef is no longer warm, then transfer them to your freezer. Stored correctly, cooked ground beef will keep its quality in your freezer for about 4 months.

Related: 7 Things You Should Clear Out Of Your Fridge

ground beef cooking in an instant pot

How To Cook Ground Beef In An Instant Pot

Cooking hamburger meat in your Instant Pot is similar to the process I’ve outlined above for how to brown ground beef in a crockpot, but a lot faster! Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Put a few pounds of ground beef into the inner pot, use a spoon or potato masher to break it up, then put the lid on. (You won’t need to add any additional liquid if you’re cooking at least a couple of pounds of beef at once, as the liquid and fat content in the meat will be enough for the pot to pressurize.)
  2. Use the Pressure Cook program to cook the beef on high pressure for 5 minutes.
  3. When the timer goes off, turn the quick-release handle to depressurize the pot, then give the ground beef a good stir and check for doneness.
  4. If the beef is nearly done, use the Sauté program to cook the beef until it’s fully cooked through. (If the beef is only partly cooked, replace the lid and pressure cook for another 5 minutes.)
  5. After cooking, drain the meat and let it cool on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish until it’s cool enough to handle, then divide into portions and freeze.

Having pre-cooked ground beef in the freezer is such a great time-saver, especially on busy weeknights when you need to get something on the table ASAP. Grabbing a package of pre-cooked beef from the freezer means you can have Sloppy Joes on the table in mere minutes!

As for how to use your pre-cooked ground beef, don’t miss these 20 delicious ground meat recipes.

What’s your favorite way to use ground beef?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

MORE IDEAS FROM

Food & Recipes

  • Buying bigger sized packages of ground beef on sale, cook the whole thing on the stove. Chill whatever isn’t going into that nights dinner. Into a big zip lock, flatten as much as possible to keep it thinner as it freezes. Really easy to whack that bag on the counter and take out a chunk for an individual meal or late night snack. The same with raw bacon chopped.

  • I’ve done this for many years and it has both saved my sanity and given my family good meals when dinner didn’t look too promising. Chili, sloppy joes, pasta casseroles, etc, only take a few minutes to prepare when the meat is already cooked. I put the bag in the microwave for 1 min and that makes it easy to add to other ingredients. Don’t judge. :)

  • If you have a vegetable steaming pot, you can do it that way and you don’t have to drain it because the fat goes in the pot and the ground beef stays in the steamer. This is how I used to do it all the time. Gave away my pot when I downsized, so don’t do it that way now.

  • Living alone, I freeze a lot of meals, soups and chili being favorites. I think Jillee’s is where I read about spreading ground beef out on a cookie sheet and cutting into square hamburger patties to freeze. Another thing I freeze is chopped, cooked onions in small packages for omelets and other dishes. I don’t know why freezing cooked, loose ground beef hasn’t ever occurred to me, but I will be doing it now. I appreciate all the new ideas I get here.

  • When I forget to thaw my hamburger, I put the package in the sink and run hot water over it. In a matter of a few minutes the hamburger is thawed. This is quick and easy. Hope this helps. Thank you for your blog Jillee!

  • You can thaw any meat by setting in direct contact with any metal pan elevated with a rack – cookie sheet, 8×8, etc. Or put down paper towels to catch drips and set on any metal pan turned upside down. I use this more often than warm water method. I don’t use microwave to thaw because it alters the taste for me.

  • You can cook frozen ground beef. Just put it in a pan and cook on medium heat. scrape the cooked part off until it is all cooked. No reason to use the microwave. I cook more frozen ground beef than thawed ground beef.

  • When I pre make my hamburger meat, I cook it in water. Mash it up with my fingers using a glove right in the pot. It makes the ground beef small which makes it easier to drain in a mesh colander. I cool it with cool water and put it in 1lb freezer proof bags. It does make a time saver for sure!

  • I use my crockpot at least two times a week,with liners. I never thought of cooking ground beef. What a super idea.
    I have to pass along a tip. I bought a Chop Stir about 5 years ago and would not be without it.I previously used a wooden spoon or spatula.This utensil is a must. I ordered from the manufacturer in Colorado,made in the USA! Now Walmart & other stores carry them,as does Pampered Chef for twice the price+.Google it. I use it for all ground meats,egg salad,pork sausage,mashing potatoes,strawberries,,breaking up canned peaches,apricots,pears,and it’s
    great for mixing meatloaf or meat for meatballs,no yucky and dirty fingers.I bet if you buy one,under $8., you’ll love it and share it with your fans.
    I’ve learned so much from your blog that I don’t ask Google,I look on jillie.com. Thanks Jillie.

  • Do you not season the meat when cooking it? It tastes so much better if cooked with salt and pepper and onion. I like to cook about 5 pounds at a time on the stove. I do one batch with salt, pepper and onion, and one batch with taco seasoning. Portion out and freeze flat in freezer bags. They thaw so fast that way!

  • Please don’t rinse the fat off your beef. There really isn’t any health benefit (studies are increasingly showing no connection between saturated fat and heart disease) and you lose a lot of the flavor.

    • My point exactly (see my comment below). I’m with you on this. Saturated fat is actually needed in the diet, as is cholesterol, and so many people are still believing what the USDA told us over the past 50 years. The real studies and evidence done back then that were not cited are coming to light now. Go to the Amer Dietetic Assoc or USDA websites and see that they are no longer limiting fat intake, cholesterol intake, and you will no longer find any information about “low-fat” diets, BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT HEALTHY. There are tons and tons of books and movies, (“The Magic Pill”, “In Defense of Food”) about this very subject of how it’s been false to tell the U.S. population to eat low-fat, the problems with our health after we were following this for years, and people are uncovering mounds of evidence that the opposite is true. Take, for example, Dr. Mark Hyman’s podcast called “The Doctor’s Pharmacy” in his interview with Nina Teicholz (author of “The Big Fat Surprise”) when they discuss this very subject, or several other books I can refer people to, like Dr. Catherine Shanahan’s “Deep Nutrition”, or Gary Taubes’ “Good Calories, Bad Calories”. Believe it or not, our governmental agencies who oversee what and how to tell us to eat are coming to grips with their huge mistake of telling us as a country and population the wrong things to eat, but unfortunately the effects will be long-lasting unless we change things today.

  • This is a great idea. I think I would improve on it just a bit by using a slow-cooker liner, then just remove the cooked ground beef with a slotted spoon. That way the grease is already bagged and ready to refrigerate till solid, then go into the trash. I will definitely have to try this, as it would save time when making sloppy joes or skillet beef dinners.

  • I do this all the time with ground beef, but have never thought to use the crockpot. Thanks for the tip! One to share in return is shredded chicken. I do an Instant Pot full of boneless skinless chicken breasts, then let my Kitchenaid stand mixer shred if for me. It goes in the freezer in 1 pound bags pressed flat. I love how little space it takes to store the meats done this way, how quick the recipes go that I use them in & how quickly a thin pack of meat thaws out when it’s needed. Thanks for always working so hard to bring us some of the best tips out there, Jillee! And I have to just say that your Hello friends picture in the white blouse & floral pants/skirt is so pretty!

  • And why would you drain or rinse off the fat? If you are using grass-fed organic ground beef, save the fat. It’s high in nutrients and helps deliver your fat-soluble vitamins to your cells. Plus it makes everything taste so much better and keeps you fuller longer. I always save the fat and just add spaghetti sauce or taco spices, whatever I’m making.

    • We use at least 90% lean grass fed here, but only go that high if we can’t find higher leans. I have acid reflux issues, my husband has IBS. Not rinsing off the extra fat on ground beef contributes to both. Greasy chili, tacos or spaghetti sauce don’t taste good the second time around, so just pointing out that there’s many reasons to rinse other than just cutting fat & calories.

      • My husband and I have the exact same problems with the people reversed. We have found that the grease makes the food go down more gently, but the spices in those dishes are what bother us. In fact, my husband has had to stop eating chili completely. If it has any chili powder at all, it’s too spicy for his acid reflux.

      • The problem with acid reflux is not enough acid, not too much, so increasing your HCI would be so beneficial in this regard.

      • The problem with acid reflux is not enough acid, not too much, so increasing your HCI would be so beneficial in this regard. As for IBS, maybe you aren’t secreting enough bile to break down your fats, so taking a very inexpensive supplement to assist with breaking down fats would benefit you greatly, as opposed to rinsing off or avoiding the beneficial fat in food.

      • I switched to keto and got rid of my acid reflux of twelve years. No more meds. And no more joint pain to boot.

  • I often cook up a couple pounds with onion to freeze to make casseroles easier. I never thought of the crock pot. Thanks for the tip. Now I will probably cook up even more at a time.

  • How long will it last in the freezer? So when you’re ready to use it, you break up the frozen cooked meat and then put it in the pan to just reheat? No defrosting? Sorry, MAJOR cooking beginner here!

    • It will stay good for about 4 months in the freezer. No need to defrost, just add it right into the recipe! This method works best for casseroles, soups, and goulashes where the beef can heat up alongside the other ingredients. I don’t normally put the ground beef into a pan by itself. :-)

  • For the past 3 years, I have been using ground turkey instead of hamburger. Ground turkey is much less fat than hamburger, and tastes the same when you use in casseroles, sloppy joes, tacos, etc…. Do you think it would work the same way? I buy it in bulk, (like 10 lbs) at a time and spend half a day frying it up and freezing it in one or 2 lb packages. I wonder if I can cook about 6 lbs at a time in my slow cooker. This could be a great time saver for me and my kitchen stove top, lol.

  • Great idea! I usually put mine in a big pot, cover it with water and basically boil it to cook it, stirring it often. That helps get rid of the fat and gives the meat a great texture (no clumps of meat) for chili or spaghetti sauce. I do still rinse it in the strainer with HOT water. Then I bag it up in small portions for the freezer.

  • To make it even faster, I now use my electric pressure cooker to cook the meat, along with bell peppers and onions. Then drain , bag and freeze as you said.

  • I have been doing this for a long time–so convenient to have the meat ready. Now that we are empty nesters, we do 2-3 lbs of meat and make taco meat and sloppy joes and freeze those in one-meal servings. Again, so nice to have a meal ready to go without thinking! Love your blog…just wish I had found it sooner. Trying to catch up on all the great hints, but there are sooooo many! Thanks for all you do!

  • Was the ground beef frozen when you put into the crock pot? How can you break it up when it’s frozen. If it wasn’t frozen, it would be faster to use a skillet on the stove top; I think you are saying however that it’s easier to use the crock pot for a large quantity – 3 lbs in this case.

    My microwave does a great job of defrosting anything, but I never tried a large quantity of ground beef, so I see how your method will be a useful addition.

    • The ground beef was not frozen when I put it into the crockpot. If yours is frozen, I would let it thaw a bit before putting in the crockpot. :-)

  • I’ve never made ground beef in the slow cooker, but I have placed ground beef in a colander and rinsed it with hot water for a very long time. It eliminates those little pockets of grease in your spaghetti sauce and chili and anything else you make with it. I’ve always just placed the colander in the sink and rinsed with hot water. I’ve never had the grease clog up the drain. I suspect it’s because the hot water keeps the grease liquid and flushes it right on down the drain. Maybe? I definitely intend to try the ground beef in the slow cooker. Great idea.

  • Did I see an advert for a child friendly drinks dispenser for bottle/s on fridge door. Some how push activated syphon from bottle to glass held by child.

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