How to Defrost Hamburger Meat? (5 Techniques to Consider)

Jayden Lawson
Published by Jayden Lawson
Last Updated On: December 5, 2023

Throughout my carnivore journey, I have encountered the need to defrost hamburger meat numerous times, and I understand the importance of doing it correctly to ensure optimal taste and safety.

I talked with a professional chef and experimented with different ground beef defrosting methods to see what works best.

In this article, I will share my personal experience and insights on the best way to defrost hamburger meat.

Quick Summary

  • The quickest method of defrosting ground beef is the microwave.
  • Thaw ground beef in the fridge if you have 24 h before you have to cook a meal.
  • If you’re defrosting ground beef in the microwave or water, you have to cook defrosted meat immediately.

5 Ways to Thaw Hamburger Meat

defrosting hamburger meat

Let’s see how to thaw America’s favorite meat safely and efficiently.

1. In the Microwave

Defrosting ground beef in the microwave is the best method if you only have five minutes.

Here’s how to defrost ground beef in the microwave step-by-step:

  1. Remove all packaging, or it’ll melt in the microwave.
  2. Put the package of ground beef on a plate and microwave at the defrost setting. If your microwave doesn’t have a defrost setting, you can microwave for five minutes. This time frame is a guideline and depends on your microwave wattage, so you should always keep an eye on the meat.
  3. Flip ground beef every minute until it’s fully thawed.

Overall, the microwave is the quickest but also the most unsatisfying method because the meat defrosts unevenly, and juices can spill all over the plate. You have the least amount of control when you c

Note: You need to cook burgers immediately after thawing in the microwave [1]. Some outer parts of the meat can start to cook during the thawing. This means parts of the burger are close to the temperature at which bacteria multiplies.

If the meat is still a little frozen in the middle, it’s fine. You can cook it on the grill or in a skillet. It’s better to leave the burger a little frozen in the middle than risk cooking it in the microwave.

Finally, keep in mind you can’t refreeze ground beef after thawing it in the microwave because it has spent time in the danger zone.

"Use the microwave's defrost settings or set it at 50% power for two to three minutes, rotating and flipping the beef every 30 seconds until it is fully thawed. Cook immediately and thoroughly to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit."

- Dr. Darin Detwiler, Professor at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts

2. In Cold Water

Cold water in a bowl

You can thaw frozen ground beef in cold water if you have about an hour before dinner and a pound of frozen beef.

Here’s how to thaw ground beef in cold water:

  1. Check the ground beef is in a sealed bag.
  2. Fill a bowl with cold water.
  3. Place the meat in cold water, making sure it’s completely submerged.
  4. Change the water every half-hour so it doesn’t get too warm.

You can weigh down the ground beef with a plate to ensure it’s completely in water.

Pro tip: Add some ice cubes to the water instead of changing it every half hour. Do a poke test to check the meat readiness. Gently poke raw ground beef with your finger. If you feel ice crystals or it’s stiff, the meat needs more time.

Keep in mind this method takes an hour for half a pound of ground beef, and you should cook burgers straight away for safety reasons.

Don’t forget to replace the bath with cold tap water. Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees, so water must stay cold [2].

Another way to defrost ground beef in cold water is to run water constantly over the bag of meat until thawed. However, this isn’t the most sustainable option, plus you’ll run your water bill high.

Note: If you’re defrosting frozen ground beef that hasn’t been shaped into patties, you can break up the meat in the middle and scrape off the meat that’s been defrosted, so the middle can also thaw.

Read More: How to Thaw a Turkey in a Cooler

3. In Hot Water

Hot water in a bowl

Defrosting burgers in hot water is another quick method.

Here’s how to defrost ground beef in hot water:

  1. Fill a bowl with hot water.
  2. Place the meat in its original packaging or a leak-proof, zip-top bag.
  3. Place ground beef in hot water.
  4. Use a plate to weigh down the meat.

Out of all the ways to defrost ground beef, hot water is the second fastest method. It’s hands-off, and you have evenly thawed ground beef without cooked outer parts or frozen parts in the middle.

This method is generally frowned upon because of the belief it leaves the meat exposed to unsafe temperature ranges, where bacteria grows.

Also, the sudden shock of hot water on frozen ground beef negatively affects the texture.

However, a recent study shows that thawing ground beef in hot water is safe [3].

You should only use a small amount of meat, so it takes a short time to thaw, and there’s no risk of bacteria spreading. Use 1 to 1 1/3 pounds of ground beef.

4. Pounding It Out

Frozen ground beef

Pounding is the best method if you have partially thawed ground beef.

Here’s how to pound the meat to defrost it:

  1. Take out the meat from its original packaging.
  2. Put the meat between the sheets of parchment paper.
  3. Use a rolling pin or a meat tenderizer and pound the meat into thin squares or rectangles.

This method works best for thin meat. Also, the thinner the frozen meat, the faster it defrosts.

5. In the Fridge

Thawing ground beef in the fridge is the best and safest method. Defrosting in the fridge doesn’t negatively affect the texture and results in evenly thawed meat.

It takes about 24 hours to thaw one pound of beef in the fridge. Put frozen beef on a plate so the juices and drippings don’t run all over your fridge as the beef defrosts.

You should also keep the meat on the bottom shelf to prevent juices from contaminating other food in the fridge.

Keep the fridge temperature at 40 degrees or below, so the harmful bacteria can’t grow.

Note: If your meal plans change, you can keep the meat in the fridge for two days before cooking ground beef [4]. This also gives you time to brainstorm ground beef recipes.

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FAQs

Do You Defrost Ground Beef in Hot or Cold Water?

You defrost ground beef in either hot or cold water. The cold water method is considered safer than hot water, but both work equally well. You need to keep the raw meat submerged in water so it thaws.

Can I Cook Frozen Ground Beef?

Yes, you can cook frozen ground beef. You need to cook it at high temperatures to avoid the danger zone temperature (between 40 and 140 degrees).

How Long Does it Take to Defrost 1kg of Ground Beef?

It takes about a day to defrost 1 kg of ground beef in the refrigerator. You can also leave it in the fridge for up to two days after defrosting.


References:

  1. https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/How-long-does-it-take-for-beef-to-thaw 
  2. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/
  3. https://www.curiouscook.com/site/2011/06/a-hot-water-bath-for-thawing-meats
  4. https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/How-long-does-it-take-for-beef-to-thaw
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