How To Quickly Defrost a Block of Ground Beef in 30 Minutes

Ground beef is a popular freezer staple for many reasons. For starters, it's a versatile protein used in a wide variety of recipes, from burgers to casseroles and beyond. Due to its relatively short shelf life (one to two days in the fridge, according to, freezing ground beef to use when you're ready just makes sense.

When it comes to how to defrost ground beef, there are a few recommended methods to keep in mind to ensure you defrost it safely and quickly—here's what the experts recommend.

Related: 24 Best Ground Beef Casserole Recipes for Easy Dinners

The Best Way To Defrost Ground Beef

In a perfect world, defrosting ground beef slowly in your refrigerator is the best method for safety reasons. "Keeping the meat cold while defrosting helps prevent the growth of bacteria," explains Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN. She recommends placing the ground beef on a larger plate in its original packaging to catch any condensation released while defrosting. When defrosting ground beef in the refrigerator, Melanie Marcus, RD, says a good rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours of defrost time for every five pounds of meat.

How Long Does It Take To Thaw Ground Beef In Cold Water?

If dinner is just a few hours away, defrosting ground beef in cold water is a fast option. Using cold water, one pound of ground beef typically takes about an hour to defrost. If you opt for this method, Shaw says it's important to ensure the ground beef is in airtight packaging to prevent it from absorbing water. "Put the package of ground beef in a bowl and fill it with cold water, then change the water every 30 minutes until it's defrosted," says Shaw. Why is it important to change out the cold water? "Safely defrosting ground beef is all about keeping it out of the temperature danger zone, which is between 41 and 135℉," Marcus explains. So, it's important not to skip this step.

How Do You Defrost Ground Beef In 30 Minutes?

It's possible to defrost ground beef in 30 minutes using the microwave method. Though defrosting ground beef in the microwave is the fastest method, it does have some drawbacks. "When you use this method, it can partially cook some of the beef, so you will need to ensure you properly cook the entirety of the beef to 165℉ when it's thawed enough to prepare your recipe," Shaw cautions. She recommends placing the ground beef in a microwave-safe glass bowl with a paper towel on top to prevent the juices from splattering. "You can rotate the beef if needed, so it evenly defrosts as much as possible," says Shaw. Follow the instructions on your microwave based on the amount of ground beef you wish to defrost for the best results.

If you own a sous vide cooker, a machine that cooks food in temperature-controlled water, food scientist Bryan Le, Ph.D., says it can defrost ground beef quickly. He recommends submerging the ground beef in sous vide filled with ice water. "If the sous vide is set to the lowest setting, it should keep the water cold enough to prevent the growth of microorganisms," he explains.

Related: Why Is Ground Beef Cooked to a Higher Temperature?

Is It Okay To Thaw Ground Beef in Hot Water?

If you can defrost ground beef in cold water in an hour or two, using hot water should speed up the process, right? However, the USDA strongly advises against this due to the unsafe environment it creates for ground beef. Why is that? "Ground beef contains a high concentration of pathogenic microorganisms, and warming up ground beef distributes the heat unevenly across the surface versus the interior of the ground beef," Le explains. Simply put, high temperatures distributed unevenly are a recipe for bacteria. If you need to defrost ground beef quickly, stick to the microwave or sous vide method.

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Can You Refreeze Thawed Ground Beef?

The only time it's okay to refreeze thawed ground beef is when using the refrigerator thawing method. Other defrosting methods open up the possibility of bacteria growth. "When using these methods, parts of the beef may rise above 40℉ degrees which puts it in the temperature danger zone where bacteria can quickly multiply," Marcus explains. If you have leftover ground beef after thawing, Shaw recommends cooking the meat, letting it cool, and storing it in an airtight container in the freezer for future meals.

Related: How To Tell If Ground Beef Is Bad

Tips for Defrosting Ground Beef

No matter what method of defrosting ground beef you choose, it's important to take proper precautions when handling raw meat. Here, Marcus shares a few other important considerations to keep in mind when thawing ground beef:

  • Keep ground beef in airtight packaging. To avoid contaminating kitchen surfaces, keep ground beef in an airtight container during the entire defrosting process.

  • Defrost ground beef away from other foods. When defrosting ground beef in the refrigerator, keep the meat on the lowest shelf so it doesn't drip away from other raw foods like fruits and vegetables. If using the cold water method, wash produce in the sink before you start thawing to avoid contamination, and thoroughly clean your sink afterward.

  • Wash your hands frequently. Be mindful of washing your hands before and after handling ground beef. Consider using single-use gloves while defrosting ground beef to help prevent cross-contamination.

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