Ground meat is a starring ingredient in many classic recipes, from delicious chilli to spaghetti to tacos to stuffed capsicum. But when it comes to freezing meat for later use, it's crucial to store it properly to avoid contamination and freezer burn. The task can be tricky, and many struggle to find a foolproof way to keep their ground meat bacteria-free while also juggling the proper thaw time for their next meal. Prepare to have your mind blown, my friends: this simple hack changes the entire game.
How to thaw meat faster
Reddit user randomusefulbits shared their own hack for reducing thawing time for ground meat, and we're honestly shocked we didn't think of this ourselves. The trick: Place your ground meat in Ziploc bags, then flatten it out and get rid of as much air as possible. This drastically cuts thawing time; plus, it's a more efficient use of space in your freezer, as it's much easier to store a flat container than a bigger chunk or tube. Just be sure to not overfill the bag so there's just enough space for the meat to spread and fill the bag.
Many commenters chimed in with extra tips on using this method as effectively as possible. Reddit user LadySomora explained that they measure out 500g portions and use a rolling pin to leave the meat as flat as possible. Another user, olordjesusitsafire, offered an excellent suggestion prepping smaller potions of meat: "Use a chopstick or skewer to score a cross or X deeply into each package from edge to edge. Now you can break off quarter-pound pieces while still frozen. Your beef will be all measured out for recipes and it's easy to see exactly how much you have on hand. Or score it into 8 pieces for 60g servings."
Keep things air-tight
Making sure the container is air-tight is especially important, as user Glorfindel420 pointed out. "As a butcher I have to say this, it's a good idea if you plan on using it quickly. A bad idea for long term because you've increased the surface area for freezer burn," they commented. However, by flattening out the meat as much as possible, you're essentially vacuum-sealing the container so that meat is touched only by the bag, which can help guard against freezer burn. Ground meat is technically safe indefinitely while frozen, but to ensure the flavour is still good, you may want to use stored frozen meat within three to four months.
When it comes time to thaw your meat, remember never to leave it out on the counter. Improperly thawing meat at room temperature allows harmful bacteria, like salmonella or E. coli to multiply. Instead, thaw ground beef in the refrigerator. For a faster defrost, you can also thaw meat in the microwave or in cold water.