So I've long been in the habit of freezing my meat when I get it home from the store, and then thawing it later. My fridge tends to be set rather cool (because someone in my house likes nearly frozen beverages) so if I leave the meat in the fridge, it may not defrost completely overnight. But I'm concerned about leaving it out in the sink for too long.

What's the best way to know how long to leave some ground hamburger meat from the store in the styrofoam tray that's been frozen once it got home?

Assume 1 or 2 lb chunks of meat, 85% through 97% ground beef.

4 Answers 4


I like to put the meat in a largish ziplock bag and flatten it out so it occupies the whole flat area of the bag but is only a couple of cm think. Then I press a chopstick into the meat lengthways both horizontally and vertically to create indents in the meat, as if I was making a naughts and crosses (tic-tac-toe) grid.

Then I freeze it lay flat in the freezer. Then when I want to use it I can 'snap' off squares of meat (along the indentation lines) to the amount that I need and I don't need to defrost the whole pack in a single go.

To defrost (I don't have a microwave) I leave the pieces on a metal tray for a little while, turning occasionally. This usually defrosts them in an hour or so, depending on how many there are


I freeze my hamburger meat in smaller pieces than that - squares a little smaller than the palm of my hand. I don't get worked up about them all being the same size either - I can grab two large ones or three smaller ones and come up with the amount of ground beef I want.

For spaghetti sauce, shepherd's (technically cottage) pie etc, I defrost the right number of squares in the microwave (on a plate or in a wide shallow bowl) then into the hot pan. Usually the centre is still frozen but it doesn't matter, it will defrost while the rest is browning. Sometimes a corner starts to cook but again this is not a big deal. For hamburger patties, I buy medium instead of lean or extra lean, and form them into patties before freezing. This means I know at a glance which is which in the freezer, and I don't have to worry about the meat partly cooking in the microwave before I form it into patties.

About the only meal this doesn't work for is meatloaf, which really needs ground beef that isn't a teeny bit cooked in one corner already and isn't still frozen in the middle either. I make that only with fresh ground beef which eliminates the problem.


If you have time, you can achieve a faster defrost if you have a surface that can absorb and distribute the cold. My preferred surface is metal storage container, or my pressure cooker. I place the meat that I want to defrost into the cooker (not on the heat of course) and leave it in a cool space in the kitchen. They are great at transferring heat from the stove to the contents, and also at transferring the cold from the inside to the outside.

Being airtight, this also eliminates the risks of flies and other "creatures" getting at the contents. As the item reaches room temperature, the process of "sucking" off the cold from the item slows.


Does your microwave have a defrost option?

I freeze ground beef in the tray it's bought in. To defrost I remove it from the packaging, put it on a microwave-safe plate and put it in on the "defrost" option for the appropriate weight.

When the microwave defrost cycle completes I then use a large sharp knife to chop the block into quarters, turn them so the corners of the quarters that were in the centre of the block are now on the outside edges of the plate, then put it through the defrost cycle again.

  • But how do you prevent the slow cook that is happening to the outside surfaces... I always find that to be a turn off...
    – Adrian Hum
    Nov 4, 2015 at 13:53
  • 1
    I don't try to prevent it. It's a total of about 10 or 15 minutes max in the microwave (so not a food safety issue assuming appropriate handling in the rest of the chain) and it doesn't affect the taste or texture that I have noticed. I agree it doesn't look the most appetising while it's in progress but as soon as it's finished defrosting and you cook it properly then you can't tell the difference.
    – Vicky
    Nov 5, 2015 at 14:51

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