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


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