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Cooked ground beef cuts prep time

Someone in a food group on Facebook recently asked fellow members what was the strangest thing in their freezers.

My answer: 40 pounds of hamburger.

Yep, I have four 10-pound tubes of ground beef in my freezer, just waiting for a time when I have a couple of days to thaw it and cook it.

I do this a couple of times a year, usually 20 pounds at a time, purchased when it’s on sale. Since time has been in short supply around this household for a few months, that 20 pounds turned into 40 when it was on sale at a price I couldn’t resist.

I’ve been doing this for years: Cooking all that ground beef, turning some into Sloppy Joes, some into taco filling, leaving some just plain to use in spaghetti saice, chili or even Hamburger Helper (please don’t judge!).

So how do I cook it? Once it’s thawed (move it into the refrigerator a few days in advance), I divide each tube into thirds and cook one batch at a time in an electric skillet. By using an electric skillet, you can cook bigger batches at a time and I find it’s easier to clean up. Just remember to keep stirring it so it cooks evenly.

After it’s drained and I’ve added taco or sloppy Joe seasoning mix to some of it, I bag it in pint and quart freezer bags (a pint holds about a half pound, the quart is about one pound), flatten the bags and freeze.

Think of how often you could use already-browned and ready-to-go ground beef “crumbles” in recipes such as soups casseroles and sauces.

Here are a few tips from Cami Wells, an Extension Educator in Grand Island:

— Brown lean ground beef in large nonstick skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until beef is not pink reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F on food thermometer, breaking beef up into 3/4-inch crumbles. Remove beef with a slotted spoon.

— Brown crumbles with onions or unroasted bell peppers which have antioxidant properties and slow flavor changes. Or brown the meat, seasoned lightly, with one or more of these herbs and spices that have antioxidant properties: rosemary, sage, marjoram, thyme, mace, allspice and cloves.

— 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.

— Cool and refrigerate beef crumbles promptly in shallow containers. 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.

— 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.

However great Cami’s tips are, I stumbled upon a “hint” a few years ago that was a big mistake. Huge!

A newspaper columnist (who shall remain nameless) suggested boiling ground beef in a stock pot, rather than cooking it in a skillet. This is what she wrote:

“I put the entire 10 pounds of raw ground beef into a big stockpot. I added enough water to cover the meat and set the pot over high heat to let the water come to a boil — no cover, no salt. After about 5 minutes, I gave it a stir to break up the big clumps, which were few. The hot water was doing all of my work for me — no splatters, no mess.

“When all of the pink color disappeared I knew it was done, even though it had not started to boil. I placed my large colander into a big bowl in the sink and poured the now cooked beef into the colander. I did this in batches because my colander would not hold all of the meat at once. With the colander I was able to drain off all the liquid into a bowl, including the fat, leaving uniformly fine-textured ground beef in the colander.”

Then she went on to freeze it in bags like I suggested above, but then she added this:

“Here’s the best part: This method removes most of the fat, leaving the ground meat nearly fat-free.”

So I tried it. It was horrible. Not only did the “uniformly fine-textured ground beef” have NO texture, removing all the fat also removed all the flavor. And here I had 5 pounds of the stuff which had been made useless (at least it wasn’t 10).

Refusing to throw it away, we eventually did use it up by adding a little a time to “regular cooked ground beef” in soups or sauces, But I will never ever try that again.

Here are some great recipes that start with cooked ground beef. If you have it already on hand, you can skip the first step and head straight to the good part.


One-Pan Spaghetti

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

1/2 pound lean ground beef (15% fat)

1 medium onion, washed and chopped

3-1/2 cups water

1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon rosemary

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cups (12 ounces) broken spaghetti

1 cup (4 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

Brown meat and onions in a large skillet over medium-high until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F on food thermometer. Drain fat.

Stir in water, tomato sauce and spices. Bring to a boil. Add spaghetti, cover pan, and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking.

When spaghetti is tender, top with grated cheese. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Makes 10 (1 cup) servings.

Notes: Pour fat from cooked meat into a metal container. Let it cool, then dispose of it in a garbage can.

Nutrition information per serving: 240 calories, 7 g fat, 370 mg sodium, 30 g carbohydrate, 13 g protein

Recipe from: Oregon State Extension

Cheesy Beef Pasta

1/2 pound lean ground beef (no less than 90%)

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 (24 ounce) jar or can tomato-based pasta sauce

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

12 ounces whole wheat rotini pasta

1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese

1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, cook the beef, onion and garlic over medium-high heat until meat is browned and reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F on food thermometer. Drain fat.

Add the pasta sauce, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes, if desired. Bring to a simmer and cook on medium-low for 15 minutes.

While the beef mixture is simmering, cook the pasta in boiling water according to package directions. Drain the water.

Add cooked pasta to the sauce in the skillet. Stir in the cheese and cover until the cheese is melted.

Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 340 calories, 11g fat, 520mg sodium, 43g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 20g protein.

Recipe adapted from: (Oregon State Extension)

Slow Cooker Hamburger Stew

1 pound lean ground beef

1/2 cup chopped onion (see note)

1 cup chopped carrots (see note)

1 cup chopped celery (see note)

1 can (15 ounce) diced tomatoes (see note)

4 cups water or low-sodium beef broth

1/2 teaspoon oregano, basil or other herb (optional)

Note: Before chopping vegetables, scrub with a clean vegetable brush. To lower sodium content, choose one of the many brands of tomatoes available in a no salt added version.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring often to crumble, until cooked through and temperature reaches 160 degrees F on a food thermometer. Drain fat.

Place beef, chopped vegetables, tomatoes, water and optional seasoning in a slow cooker.

Cook on LOW 8 to 10 hours or on HIGH for 4 to 6 hours.

Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 275 calories, 10g fat, 240mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 25g protein.

Recipe from: Cami Wells, Hall County Extension

No-Added Salt Sloppy Joes

1 tablespoon dried minced onion

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound of lean ground beef

1/2 cup water

1 cup of no-salt added ketchup

6 whole-grain hamburger buns

Wash hands with soap and water.

Mix all spices until well blended.

Brown 1 pound of lean ground beef over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes in a large nonstick skillet, breaking beef up into small crumbles. Cook until beef is not pink and reaches 165 degrees when measured with a food thermometer. Pour off drippings.

Add seasoning mix, water and no-salt-added ketchup. Simmer for 10 minutes, reducing heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally. Add more water if the mixture becomes too thick.

Serve on whole grain buns hamburger buns.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 340 calories, 8 g fat, 300 mg sodium, 37 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 29 g protein.

Recipe from: Cami Wells

Impossible Lasagna Pie

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup small curd cottage cheese (not nonfat)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups (8 ounces) mozzarella cheese, shredded

3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1/2 cup Bisquick

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 eggs

Fresh parsley, chopped

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch pie pan that is at least 1 1/4-inches deep.

Cook beef in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until brown; drain. Layer cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese in pie plate. Add 1 cup mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning and tomato paste to the beef; stir until blended. Spoon evenly over top of the cheeses in pie plate.

Stir together Bisquick, water, salt, pepper and eggs in a bowl until blended. Pour into pie plate. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake 1 to 2 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with fresh parsley if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

Optional: If you have some spaghetti sauce on hand, heat it in the microwave to serve with this pie.

Recipe from: Mary Hunt

Cuban Ground Beef Hash

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

1-1/2 pounds ground beef

1 medium green pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup sliced stuffed olives

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

12 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup frozen peas

Hot cooked rice

In a large skillet, cook the beef, green pepper and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.

Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, raisins, olives, vinegar, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add peas; cover and cook 5 minutes longer or until heated through. Serve with rice.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe from: Taste of Home;

Terri Hahn of Osceola has worked in food media for more than 30 years and has won numerous state and national awards for her writing. Email her at [email protected]


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