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4 Ways To Cook Frozen Ground Beef (When in a Hurry)

You can cook frozen ground beef in the oven or on a stovetop for the best results. If you have some time to let the frozen ground beef cook, you can add it to the crockpot or pressure cooker for hands-free cooking. You can use this meat for tacos, hamburgers, and more.

Remember that for food to be the safest consumption, you’d thaw it out before cooking. In the rest of the article, I’ll explore each of the ways to cook frozen ground beef, along with how to thaw the meat out properly. 

1. Cook it on the Stove

A Frying Pan With Raw Ground Beef

Cooking ground beef on the stove is the best way to cook frozen beef in a hurry if your only goal is speed. It’ll take additional time to cook as compared to your thawed meat, but you can minimize that by following a few easy steps:

  1. Use plenty of cooking oil.
  2. Let the pan heat up to a medium level, not enough that the cooking oil will begin to fry the meat when you add it.
  3. Factor in at least fifteen extra minutes for cooking.
  4. Sear (meaning let brown) the beef on both sides.
  5. Break the meat up as it begins to break down and thaw out in the hot pan.
  6. Add seasoning last.

This should take you however long you planned on cooking, plus at least fifteen minutes. This is a very hands-on method of cooking beef, so you’ll likely need to be standing at the stove the entire time. 

Make sure to factor in this extra time and delegate other tasks you need to do to family members, or keep a cutting board near the stove to prepare the other ingredients. You won’t want to walk away from the stove for this method.

Ways To Use Ground Beef From the Stove

Pan-cooked ground beef is the staple of many easy recipes. You can save time by cooking one of the following meals:

  • Tacos (using tortillas, cheese, and fresh vegetables)
  • Burgers (using buns, cheese, and condiments)
  • Stuffed peppers (using peppers, cheese, and minute rice)
  • Spaghetti (using noodles and pasta sauce)
  • Shepherds pie (using instant mashed potatoes and frozen veggies)

These recipes have only a few inexpensive ingredients, so your meal can come together quickly.

2. Use the Oven


Using an oven to cook frozen ground beef may be the best option for you if you have a little longer to give but can’t stand around watching the meat thaw. If you’re hosting a party or still need to get ready, then this option will be best for you. To do it, you will:

  1. Preheat the oven to somewhere between 350 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit (177 and 191 degrees Celsius)
  2. Slice or break frozen ground beef into sections, if possible (skip this step and move on if not).
  3. Add non-stick oil to the pan or add tinfoil to a shallow baking dish
  4. Put frozen ground beef in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius), checking on it consistently.
  5. Remove the beef once thawed enough and prepare it in whatever way you originally intended (breaking into patties and grilling, putting it on a stove, etc.).

Another benefit of this method is that you can mold the meat into other shapes if you need to after it has thawed out a little. If you plan on making burgers or meatloaf, this will work well. 

However, plan on adding at the very least thirty minutes (but more likely an hour) to your cooking time. Add additional time if you plan on switching the meat once it’s thawed out to the pan or another cooking method. 

You’d also check on your meat constantly to break it up as the outside cooks. Hopefully, you’ll be able to cut it with a knife as the outside becomes more malleable and the inside begins to thaw.

3. Quickly Cook Ground Beef in an Instant Pot


If you do have an instant pot, you can use it similarly to your crockpot. Avid instant pot users know that instant pots can do what takes a crock pot four hours in thirty minutes. This method will be quick, but there are some downfalls. To use your instant pot, you will:

  1. Add your ground beef and either water, stock, or broth to your instant pot.
  2. Use the high-pressure setting for at least twenty minutes.
  3. Allow the pressure cooker to release anywhere from five to ten minutes.
  4. Drain your meat and add seasoning.

Unfortunately, this method usually adds a weird texture to the meat. It can sometimes have a difficult time holding onto the seasoning. This produces a bland product, but bland is better than nothing.

Pros and Cons of Each Ground Beef Cooking Method

If you know what you are using the ground beef for and how much time you have, you can choose a method that works best for you. The chart below provides a quick pro and con for each of the above cooking methods. 

Method for Thawing BeefProsCons
StoveQuickest methodMeat will have to be broken up and ground and can’t be made into patties or other shapes (like for burgers or meatloaf)
Oven Less hands-on than using the stoveTakes longer
CrockpotHands off, you won’t need to do anything besides adding the meat to the crockpotLongest method, will often take several hours
Instant Pot
Quick and hands-off 
Might add a strange texture to the meat. 
Instant pots are less common.

4. Got a Little More Time? Try the Crockpot


Using a crockpot for frozen beef will take the longest time, but you’ll be able to walk away from it and not check on it constantly. This might be ideal for you if you’re cleaning, setting up for a party, or needing to get the kids or yourself ready for guests. To do this, you’ll crank your crockpot up to high and throw the ground beef in. Just be sure to add a little brother or water to the bottom of the crock pot so nothing burns.

Unfortunately, this method may take several hours, anywhere from three to six, depending on how much meat you add. However, one benefit is that you can just throw in all of your other ingredients (depending on what you are making), so the meat becomes extra flavorful.

Ways To Use Crockpot Ground Beef

If you want to add a few additional ingredients to your crockpot as your beef thaws, they’ll cook in the meat and give you an almost-complete meal when your crockpot is done. You can cook:

  • Chili (add beans, broth, diced tomatoes, and seasoning)
  • Taco beef (add chili peppers, diced onion, garlic, and seasonings)
  • Casserole (add tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, rice, and cheese at the end)

Adding these cheap, easy ingredients will give you a complete meal once the meat has thawed and been cooked. 

Cook Frozen Ground Beef at a Lower Heat

You can cook frozen ground beef in the same ways you cook regular ground beef. Just be sure to let it thaw in the microwave or cook low and slow. Ground beef can quickly be cooked using a stove, an oven, or a crockpot. Be sure to check for the internal temperature before serving.

The key to cooking food that is still frozen is to ensure you’re cooking at a lower heat, not scorching it with a hot pan or oven. Usually, meat that’s still frozen will have quite a bit of water still in it, so you will need to drain the meat before serving. The internal temperature of this meat should be 160 degrees Fahrenheit or 71 degrees Celsius.

Thawing meat before cooking is best, but it’s still safe to cook. The meat can be completely frozen as long as the internal temperature for the little meat pieces reaches the acceptable temperature. 

A good, general rule of thumb to follow when using frozen beef is to add all of your seasonings last or when the meat has broken down better, as the seasoning likely won’t penetrate the frozen meat.

How Do I Safely Thaw Out Ground Beef?

Table setting with frozen ground beef on a plate

Of course, it’s safest to thaw out your ground beef before you begin cooking. Using alternative thawing methods can often lead to bacteria growth, which can make you sick.

To safely thaw out ground beef, add the meat to the fridge no more than 48 hours prior to cooking and cook it right away. Never thaw out and then refreeze ground beef.

Additionally, cooking meat while frozen means a better chance that the meat won’t be cooked to the right internal temperature, especially if you are in a rush. There are strict regulations on the temperature food needs to be handled and stored in the food world.

You might consider investing in a food thermometer to ensure anything you are cooking has reached the right temperature. In general, best practices for thawing ground beef are as follows:

  • Keep the ground beef in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Cook within 1 to 2 days of thawing.

Additionally, all meat needs to be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit or 71 degrees Celsius before being consumed. Suppose you use a thawing method from below or have attempted to cook frozen meat from the strategies above. In that case, you need to be sure all the meat (every single piece) is at the right temperature.

How Can I Thaw Ground Beef in a Hurry?

The best practice is to thaw out your meat, even if you only do a little thawing. This often cuts the cooking time down by at least twenty-five percent, even if you invest more time in letting the meat thaw out.

You can thaw beef in a hurry using the microwave, warm water, or cool water methods. The microwave method utilizes the built-in thaw setting on your home microwave. Both the warm water and cool water methods take longer, but they use tap water to help thaw your meat.

Below, I list the pros and cons of each method. 

Microwave MethodTakes the shortest amount of time and is the most thorough.Not every person owns a microwave.
Warm Water MethodTakes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, making it the second shortest method.You need to sit at the pot and watch your meat to ensure nothing goes wrong.
Thermometer is needed.
Cold Water MethodIs a thorough, safe way of thawing meat.Takes the longest
You have to replace the water every 30 minutes until thawed.

If you’re in a hurry, determine how much time you have to get things done, knowing that cooking frozen meat takes at least double the time of thawed meat. Then, decide if you can spare an extra thirty minutes to a half-hour to use the warm water or cold water methods. The microwave method is best if you want to thaw your meat but don’t have all that time.

Thawing Ground Beef in the Microwave

You can use the microwave to help thaw out your ground beef in a pinch. This makes the cooking time much shorter, so taking the extra five or ten minutes is worth it, especially if you had specific plans for your ground beef that didn’t include ground crumbles.

If you have the type of ground beef with little metal prongs on it, remove them before adding them to the microwave. Ideally, you should unwrap the meat before thawing. Otherwise, add the meat to a microwave-safe plate. To use the microwave, you’ll find the defrost button. Click through the settings until you’ve added the proper weight and type of meat to the system. Let the meat thaw in the microwave, flipping when requested.

This adds a slow amount of heat to the meat that thaws it without cooking the outside. Don’t forget to cook this meat immediately.

Using Warm Water to Thaw Ground Beef

You can also steam a method for thawing out meat in a hurry, though it takes more time and effort than the cold water or microwave methods. This video explains how to use this method:

You’ll heat water on the stove until it gets to 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 degrees Celsius. This isn’t anywhere close to boiling, which is at 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit. You can leave your meat in this warm water for forty-five minutes. Make sure the water isn’t continuing to build heat as it cooks. Otherwise, it will boil your meat and possibly damage the plastic bag.

This method is unideal because bacteria can quickly develop on the meat and present food-borne illnesses. You have to sit in the water to check if the temperature is correct and ensure the water isn’t breaking into the plastic bag. For this reason, the warm water method only works for small amounts of meat.

Additionally, suppose you know your sink’s tap water will get to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and celsius. In that case, you can put your meat in a plastic bag in a bowl under the tap and let the water pour over it. Again, this method may take upwards of ten to thirty minutes.

Using Cold Water to Thaw Ground Beef

Using cold water to thaw your ground beef will take a long time, but it’ll take less time than is required for a thorough thaw in the fridge. To use this method, fill a large bowl with cold water. Then, add your meat in a Ziploc bag to the bowl. Dunk it a few times, then let it soak for at least thirty minutes. If the meat is still frozen, replace the water and repeat the process until the meat has thoroughly thawed.

For more, don’t miss How to Fix Salty Ground Beef | Recipe Rescue.

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Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

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