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How To Defrost Ground Beef

When it’s time for dinner, you may need to know how to defrost ground beef. There are a few great ways to do this that will have you ready to start cooking in no time!  

The best methods include using the refrigerator, cold water, hot water, or microwave. Each of these options has its own pros and cons that will determine how you use them. 

Pound of raw ground beef on a slab of slate

How to Thaw ground beef 

There are multiple ways to defrost ground beef. Choose the one that you’re most comfortable with, depending on how much time you have before you need to cook dinner. 

These four options have been tested and are efficient methods for defrosting ground beef. Make sure that the ground beef has not gone bad

Thaw in the refrigerator

The safest way to defrost ground beef is to let it thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours. This ensures that the meat never goes into the dangerous temperature zone and allows bacteria to grow.

This also works with thawing stuffing for Thanksgiving.  

This is the slowest way but is, arguably, the easiest. All you need to do is pull the beef out of the freezer and put it on a plate in the refrigerator. 

Be sure to put the plate on the bottom shelf in the fridge so that if any juices drip off the plate, they won’t drip down onto other food. 

This is important because you’ll need to throw out anything that comes in contact with raw chicken or its juices. 

Defrost in cold water 

You can also defrost ground beef in an airtight bag in a bowl of cold water

This will take less time than thawing it in the refrigerator but will still take at least one hour, depending on how much meat there is to thaw. 

Thawing it in cold water is the second safest way to defrost ground beef because the cold water doesn’t allow the beef to come above 40°F, where bacteria grow best. 

Defrost in the microwave 

If you’re in a hurry or forgot to thaw the beef a few hours before dinner, you can also use the defrost setting on your microwave. This also works with defrosting stuffed shells.

The defrost setting brings the power of your microwave down, so it’s not cooking at full blast. This allows the meat to thaw without actually cooking it. 

Since the beef is ground, you can peel off the thawed parts on the outside and put it in a separate bowl every so often, so it doesn’t cook while the inside is still defrosting in the microwave. 

Defrost in hot water

While defrosting in hot water isn’t traditional, you can use this method as long as you intend to cook it immediately after it’s completely thawed to prevent bacteria from growing. 

This method is similar to using the microwave to defrost ground beef. 

You also want to make sure the water isn’t so hot that it cooks the beef while defrosting. 

How to use ground beef

This versatile meat can be used in various dishes as the main ingredient, in combination with others, or on the side. 

Ground beef is used to make hamburgers, added to casseroles, taco salads, meatloaf, chili, and so much more.

I have a great recipe on how to cook ground beef.  

Preparing for the freezer 

To freeze ground beef for the longest amount of time in the freezer, you’ll need to do a couple of steps. 

First, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then put it inside a large freezer bag. Label and date the bag so you know what it is and how long ago you froze it. 

Can you refreeze thawed ground beef? 

If you’ve thawed more ground beef than you need in your recipe, you may wonder if you can refreeze it. 

Yes, you can refreeze ground beef, but only if you thawed it in the refrigerator. This is a safety precaution since you know for sure that the meat never got into the danger zone. 

A tip is to freeze your ground meat in one-pound portions so you can pull out exactly as much as you need each time. 

How long can you keep frozen beef in the freezer?

Ground beef is tasty and convenient meat that you can add to all kinds of meals. 

You can keep ground beef in the freezer indefinitely; however, it starts to lose flavor and can get freezer burn after about six months. 

To avoid this, be sure to wrap it in plastic wrap and keep it in a large freezer bag in the freezer.


The safest way to defrost ground beef is in the refrigerator, and this allows it to thaw without the risk of the beef going into the danger zone, which is above 40°F. 

This depends on which method you use to thaw it and how much meat you have. It takes about 6 hours to thaw one pound of ground beef in the refrigerator, one hour in cold water, and just a few minutes in the microwave.

It’s not good to thaw beef on the counter, and bacteria multiply in the danger zone between 40°F – 140°F. It’s best to use one of these other methods to thaw ground beef to avoid letting it stay in this temperature range for too long.

You can keep raw ground beef in the refrigerator for up to three days before you need to either use or freeze it.

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