Think of how often you could use already-browned and ready-to-go ground beef "crumbles" in recipes such as soups and sauces. Here's how to make your own and keep them frozen for ready access! PLUS, recipes to get you started!
Tips for Success
Ground beef may be browned ahead of time and frozen for quick and convenient use in spaghetti sauce, chili, sloppy joes, etc. Follow these tips for best flavor and quality.
- Brown crumbles with onions or unroasted bell peppers which have antioxidant properties and slow flavor changes.
- Use the seasoning and amount that will be most suitable for the recipes you make. Add more seasoning when you prepare the food, if needed, as freezing may affect the intensity of the flavor of spices and herbs.
- Do not use salt; add salt later when the meat is used in your recipe. Salt may hasten undesirable flavor changes in beef crumbles.
- Freezing the crumbles as part of a sauce, such as spaghetti sauce, also helps preserve flavor. Make sure the sauce covers the entire meat surface.
- Cool and refrigerate beef crumbles promptly in shallow containers. Containers may be placed in the refrigerator before beef has cooled entirely. Loosely cover refrigerated container until beef has cooled.
- Promptly transfer the cooled beef crumbles to plastic "freezer," NOT "storage" bags. Eliminate air pockets. Freezer bags are thicker than storage bags and will keep the food fresh longer.
- Label and date packages; include amount of beef or number of servings.
- Speed freezing and hasten thawing by freezing crumbles in a thinner, flattened shape in freezer bags. Do not stack packages -- the quality will be better if the beef freezes faster. A rounded shape takes longer to thaw through to the middle. Flattened packages also will stack better in your freezer. Place on a flat surface, such as a metal pan or cookie sheet until frozen. Then, remove and stack.
- Use frozen beef crumbles within 2 to 3 months for best flavor and quality. Keep frozen at 0 °F or lower. Make sure to thaw safely such as placing in the refrigerator.
IMPORTANT: Unless you plan to use beef crumbles within a day or two, freeze crumbles promptly after cooling for best quality and safety. If stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, transfer to a tightly covered container after they have cooled.
- Use 90% lean and higher ground beef for these directions; 16 ounces raw ground beef yields equally to 12 ounces fully cooked ground beef crumbles.
- For best quality, brown no more than 1 pound of ground beef at a time. As ground beef browns, some meat juices are released. If you overload the skillet, moisture is trapped and meat is steamed rather than browned.
- Brown lean ground beef in large nonstick skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, breaking beef up into ¾-inch crumbles. Cook until beef is not pink and reaches a temperature of 160 °F when measured with a food thermometer. Remove beef with slotted spoon or drain using a colander.
Most of these recipes can be prepared either immediately after preparing the ground beef crumbles made with chopped onion and then frozen; OR, you can prepare them by using the frozen crumbles directly from the freezer and then eat them. It depends on how much versatility you want:
- Would you rather make the recipe you want when you want it with crumbles straight from the freezer ?
- Or would you like some recipes already prepared and waiting for you in the freezer?
- Or, you might just decide to make these recipes and eat them right away without freezing!
Ground Beef Recipes
This article was originally written by Alice Henneman. It was reviewed and updated in 2023.