When dinner depends on thawing that solid brick of ground beef, here are 3 ways to get it done safely and quickly.

By Alyssa Sybertz

Ground beef is one of the most versatile ingredients to stockpile in your freezer, especially given that it only lasts a few days in the fridge. But defrosting it the wrong way can risk the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. Fortunately, we have the easiest and most efficient strategies for thawing ground beef quickly and safely:

If you have 12 to 24 hours…

If you know ahead of time that you want to use your ground beef, thawing it in the refrigerator is the safest way to do so. It takes about 24 hours to fully thaw one pound of ground beef in the refrigerator, but if your beef is in smaller frozen batches it will defrost faster. Be sure to place the package on a plate to catch any drippings or juice that sneaks out as the meat defrosts. The best part: If your dinner plans change, the ground beef will keep raw in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days before it needs to be cooked.

If you have 1 hour…

With only an hour or so to go before supper and a pound of frozen ground beef in your hands, you can defrost it in a bowl of cold water. First, make sure the frozen beef is in a sealed and leak-proof package, then submerge it in a bowl of cold tap water—warm or hot water might seem like they would speed up the thawing process, but they will heat the outer layer of beef too quickly, risking the growth of bacteria. For this reason, you should also change the water or add a few ice cubes every 30 minutes to keep it from getting too warm. One pound of beef will take about one hour to defrost in a bowl of water, then it should be cooked right away.

If you have 5 minutes…

For days when what to make for dinner is the last thing on your mind, you can use the microwave to quickly defrost ground beef. Remove all packaging, then place the meat on a plate and microwave it at 50% power for 2 to 3 minutes, rotating and flipping the beef every 45 seconds, until it is fully thawed. Some of the outer parts of the meat might start to cook, which is why you should use the ground beef immediately after defrosting it in the microwave.

Can I refreeze my thawed ground beef?

Whether or not you can safely refreeze ground beef after thawing depends on the method you use to defrost it. If you decide not to use your ground beef after defrosting it in the refrigerator, you can stick it back in the freezer within 48 hours with no risk of bacteria growth. But if you use cold water or the microwave to defrost your meat and then decide you don't want to use it, it's best to cook it first before refreezing it.


Check out our collection of Ground Beef Recipes.


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