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Have you taken some hamburger meat out of your freezer to thaw and then had a change in dinner plans? If so, then you're probably wondering whether or not you can put it back in the freezer for another night. We went and dug up all the information we could about re-freezing beef and put all the important details here to make your life easier.
According to the USDA, if the hamburger was thawed in the refrigerator, you can refreeze it within three days. If you left it in cold water or used the microwave to thaw the hamburger meat, you have to cook it before you can safely refreeze it.
There is plenty more to learn about the safe handling of raw ground beef. Keep reading to learn the best ways to freeze and store your beef, as well as how long ground beef will stay good, and more.
How Many Times Can You Refreeze Ground Beef?
If the meat was transferred directly from the freezer to the fridge, it can be thawed and re-frozen multiple times and still be safe for consumption. The problem is that each time you freeze and thaw the meat, it will lose quality, becoming a bit of a mushy mess.
When food is frozen, the water molecules inside it expand and break down cell walls which compromise the texture and flavor of the meat. Ground beef that has been frozen and thawed multiple times is best for soups and stews where the texture change won't be so noticeable.
What is the Best Way to Thaw Frozen Ground Beef?
The absolute best way to thaw ground beef is to place it in the refrigerator until it has completely softened. If you are in a rush and can't wait around for the meat to thaw in the fridge, two other methods are a little quicker.
Depending on how much meat you are unthawing, how it is packaged, and the temperature of your fridge, refrigerated thawing could take anywhere from 8 hours to a full 24 hours.
Cold Water Method
Place the frozen meat in a watertight plastic bag and submerge it in a large bowl of cold water. Change the water every half hour until the meat is fully thawed. Cook the meat immediately after thawing. This method should defrost a pound of ground beef in about 30 minutes to an hour.
Remove all packaging from the meat and place it on a microwave-safe plate. Set the microwave to 50% power and let it run for 2-3 minutes. Wear oven mitts to remove the plate from the microwave, turn and rotate the meat, then place it back in the microwave for another 2-3 minutes at 50% power.
Repeat this process until the meat is completely thawed. Cook the meat immediately after thawing. The microwave method should have your hamburger meat defrosted in about 10 minutes.
This microwave will make short work of defrosting ground beef on busy nights. Click here to check it out on Amazon.
Can You Leave Beef on the Counter to Thaw?
You should never leave meat at room temperature to thaw. Thawing meat at room temperature allows bacteria to grow, and eating it could cause illness. Do not allow food to sit at temperatures higher than 40°F, cooked or raw. Once your food is finished cooking, allow it to cool, then immediately put it in the fridge or freezer.
Can You Refreeze Previously Frozen Cooked Ground Beef?
Yes, it is perfectly safe to refreeze ground beef once it is fully cooked. Once the meat is thoroughly cooked, let it cool, then place it in freezer bags or freezer-safe plasticware before putting it in the freezer. Cooked meat that has been frozen will end up with a slightly mushy texture, so plan to use it accordingly. It will stay good in your freezer for up to 4 months.
Best Way To Freeze Ground Beef?
If you plan to use the hamburger within a few days, you can leave it in its original packaging. If the beef will be frozen for longer than a few days, plan to repackage it before freezing it. The best way to package meat is a double wrapping method; this will protect it from possible freezer burn. Using butcher paper, aluminum foil, or similar, wrap the meat well. Place the wrapped meat inside a resealable freezer bag to help preserve freshness.
This butcher paper has great reviews, and it would be perfect for helping protect your meat from freezer burn. Click here to see it on Amazon.
How Long is Hamburger Meat Good For?
Raw Meat In The Fridge
Uncooked hamburger meat will stay good for about three days in the refrigerator. If the meat smells or looks off, don't risk it; throw it away. If you can't use it within three days, put it back in the freezer immediately. You can also cook it ahead of time, then refrigerate it for a few days, or refreeze it for a few months.
Raw Meat In The Freezer
According to the USDA, raw meat kept frozen will stay good indefinitely, but try to consume it within four months of freezing for the best quality and taste. While meat from longer than recommended may be safe to eat, it loses much of its nutritional value after being frozen for so long. Because of this, the USDA recommends throwing away meat frozen longer than one year.
Cooked Meat In The Fridge
Cooked hamburger meat can remain safe in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Again, if the meat looks or smells questionable, it's better to be safe than sorry - just throw it away.
Cooked Meat In The Freezer
Thoroughly cooked ground beef stored properly in the freezer will stay good for 3-4 months. Cooked meat must not be kept any longer than four months. Remember that even cooked meat loses quality when frozen and thawed, so plan to use it in meals that will leave the texture and taste unnoticed.
How To Tell If Ground Beef Is Bad?
The most obvious way to tell if ground beef has spoiled is to examine the color and the smell. Raw ground beef should be red on the outside. When you separate the meat, the middle may look gray due to a lack of oxygen. This is normal. If your raw beef is brown or gray on the outside surface, it has spoiled. If the meat smells off, it is bad; fresh ground beef doesn't have a noticeable scent.
Now that you know all the in's and out's of safe hamburger handling, you're ready to make intelligent meal planning decisions. Remember to wash your hands before and after handling meat and to cook thoroughly before consuming. Enjoy your safe and delicious meal!
If you want to learn more about handling meat safely in the kitchen, you might like our article: "Can You Cut Meat On A Wooden Cutting Board? [Raw And Cooked]"
If you are considering defrosting your ground beef in the microwave, you may want to read our article: "Does Microwaving Meat Make It Tough?"