In years past, I have usually purchased ground beef in bulk when it was on sale, take it home and freeze the raw meat in 1-2 pound chunks until I was ready to prepare it. This was an economical way to feed my family. But, it takes planning ahead to take the meat out of the freezer and allow it to thaw in time for dinner. I don’t always have time for that. Today’s families have jobs, soccer practice, dance or music lessons and gym time so they are not always able to plan ahead for meals.
Well, you can cut your prep time down by cooking your ground beef (or turkey) ahead of time and freezing it already cooked. Now, when I purchase bulk amounts of ground beef on sale, I cook it all at once. It takes about the same about of time to cook 10 pounds of meat in a large pot than it does 2 pounds in a skillet. Take the 15-20 minutes to brown the ground beef and you will find your future meals much easier. And, cooked ground beef thaws quicker than its raw counterpart and, in many instances, it doesn’t even need to thaw it to put it into your recipe! Woot – Woot!!!
In a large dutch oven or deep skillet, brown 5-10 pounds of ground beef. Don’t over brown it, just cook it until there is no pink. It will finish cooking when you actually use it for a meal. I usually only season with salt and pepper and wait to season when I prepare the meal but you can season it to suit your taste. Once it is done cooking, drain the meat in a large colander.
**TIP: While it is still in the colander, run HOT water over the meat to get the extra fat off. Do not rinse with cold water as that just sets the fat. This keeps the meat from getting globby with fat in the freezer and makes it a bit more lean. Is globby a word? What about globulous? Globbish? Well, you know what I mean.
Allow the meat to cool slightly and then divide it up into several quart freezer bags. The amount in each bag should be determined by how much you usually use in a recipe or how large your family is. I usually use a couple of cups of meat per recipe. The good thing about putting it in quart bags is that you can take one out for a small meal, or two or three when you have more mouths to feed.
Be sure to label your bags with both the contents and the date. Lay bags on the counter and spread the meat out until the bags are as evenly flat as possible so they store better in the freezer. Keep cooked meat in the freezer for up to 3-6 months.
To use, simply take the bags out of the freezer and allow to thaw for 20 minutes or so. Or you can break the meat up and put it directly into your casserole or pan and it will thaw as it is cooking. Of course, you may need to add a little to your cooking time.
I hope this tip helps you on those hectic weeknights when you need dinner ready in record time!