We try to buy food once a month, then half way restock on the perishables. One of the main ingredients of many of our meals is ground beef (or turkey). Beginning of the month (sometimes 2-3 months in advance), we’ll buy a large amount of meat: 14 + lbs. I used to just divide it up into 1lb (or between 3/4 and 1lb) portions, and freeze them. In college when it was just me and my room mate I did 1/4 lb portions. You can divide it into whatever portion you like.
Ideally you have a vacuum sealer and can store it that way. But if you’re like me, you’re probably reduced to layering them between wax paper or wrapping them in aluminum foil and tossing it in a freezer bag. I’ve started to use the plastic sandwich bags: I got sick of the hassle with the foil or paper.
Now, as we all know, dinner can be a hassle and a rush some days. It’s hard when you’re running late and have to take out about a pound of frozen solid meat (because you know you forgot to pre-thaw it), thaw it, and brown it. Sometimes we even skip the thaw part and just tossing it in the skillet. It drove me crazy.
Then one day, I realised I only ever use ground meat in the browned and crumble format in things like pasta and rice dishes, spaghetti sauce, tacos, etc. Then a light bulb went off: why not precook the meat? This mean all I need to do is pull the bag out of the freezer, and toss on skillet, heat and go. A 15+ minute trial is now only 3-5 minutes.
Here we go with a step by step process of precooking and freezing ground meat. I also added some vegetables to the batch to help bulk up, and hide some nutrition for my family. For tips on that read my Vegetable Battles post.
Figure out how much meat you have and how you want to divide it. Sandwich size ziplock bags can hold about 1lb of ground meat. Now I bought 6.93lb of ground turkey this time, so about 7 lbs. I added about 2 cups of minced cooked vegetables. I decided to stretch the 7lbs between 9 bags, so about .77lb per bag not including the vegetables–just over 3/4lb. Many recipes I use call for 1lb of ground meat, but it’s often a bit much, so I like cutting down on how much I add.
If you’re adding vegetables, you can cook it with ground beef, but if you’re using turkey, you’ll want to precook it otherwise it won’t soften enough. As I had turkey this time, I precooked my vegetable. Look at this delightful mush of celery, carrots, and have an onion. How did it get so fine? My delightful Vitamix. I could have made it more liquefied, but decided to keep it minced fine so that it can add a bit of bulk.
Of course this is only half of it. Could you imagine my cooking 7 lbs of meat in one skillet? No way. I made that mistake once, never again. When I start cooking the meat I add the vegetables. even though they’re precooked, it helps them integrate better into the meat.
I also like to add a little bit of season, usually just pepper and salt. But if you know how you generally use you meat you can pre-season it. Heck, go ahead and make your taco meat or spaghetti meat or whatever floats your boat. just be sure to label it clearly if you do that.
Because I had to cook my meat in two batches, I dumped the meat into a large bowl and let it cool down some. I decided to use plastic bags. Sadly I never got that kitchen scale for my wedding, so I just divide up the meat between the 9 bags simultaneously, rather than one at a time. A great tip for keep the bag open is to flip the zipper over as seen in this photo. It keep the bag open. Otherwise this is either a dangerously messy 1 person job or a two person job.
Easiest way is to then scoop one or two spoonfuls at a time into each bag until there is no more meat left. Sometimes I will purposefully make one bag less and another more full because some recipes like spaghetti I prefer less meat, while tacos I want more.
Next you squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible and zip it shut. I usually put 6 or so into a gallon sized bag. Label it and freeze. I keep a couple in the kitchen freezer, and the rest in the garage deep freezer.
Viola! Done! now when you need ground beef, grab a bag, you can toss in the microwave for 10 seconds to break it up then heat in a skillet. That simple. Good luck!
Try using this meat in any of these recipes: