Can ground beef be frozen? (and how to safely handle it)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can ground beef be frozen,” and discuss how long frozen ground beef is good for and does the taste and texture of ground beef change when frozen.

Can ground beef be frozen?

Yes, ground beef can be frozen. Freezing is a preservation method that utilizes low temperatures to prolong the shelf life of meat products. Its primary function is to slow down the growth of microorganisms and the occurrence of deteriorative reactions, thereby maintaining the quality of the meat.

Essential meat characteristics that freezing aims to retain include tenderness, color, water-holding capacity, and flavor. Although freezing generally enhances meat tenderness, it can have adverse effects on other quality aspects.

Fresh meat contains a significant amount of water, rendering it susceptible to both microbial spoilage and chemical reactions that can compromise qualities like color, texture, and taste.

Microbial contamination is typically concentrated on the surface of whole meat cuts, while ground meat exhibits a more widespread distribution of microbial contaminants due to the mixing that takes place during its production. (1)

How to freeze ground beef?

For extended freezer storage, employ heavy-duty materials such as plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper, or specialized plastic bags designed for freezing. Ground beef remains safe for an indefinite period when stored in the freezer, although its quality will gradually decline.

Ideally, it is recommended to utilize it within 4 months. To effectively monitor storage durations, ensure you label your packages with the date of freezing. (2)

How does temperature affect ground beef?

Temperature exerts a significant influence on the proliferation of microorganisms. The optimal temperature range for the growth of most spoilage-causing bacteria is between 12 to 30 °C. However, when meat is subjected to chilling, temperatures are lowered to 2–4 °C, triggering a cold shock that impairs and ultimately destroys microbial cells.

Maintaining meat at temperatures below 4 °C effectively hinders bacterial growth, leading to an extension in shelf life by several days.

Further decreasing the temperature to −2 to −18 °C brings about a complete halt in both microbial and enzymatic activities, attributed to the freezing process and the absence of accessible water. Freezing is commonly utilized for meat destined for export purposes, whereas fresh red meat is typically chilled for domestic markets. (3)

How to defrost ground beef?

The safest approach to thaw ground beef is within the confines of the refrigerator. Maintaining a cold environment during the defrosting process is crucial to prevent bacterial growth. It’s advisable to cook or refreeze the meat within 1 or 2 days.

For a quicker thawing method, you have the option to use the microwave oven or cold water. If opting for the microwave, it’s important to cook the ground beef immediately, as certain sections may begin cooking during the defrosting process.

When thawing in cold water, place the meat in a watertight plastic bag and immerse it. Remember to change the water every 30 minutes. After thawing, cook promptly. Unless you cook it first, avoid refreezing raw ground meat that has been thawed in cold water or the microwave. (2)

How long is frozen ground beef good for?

By upholding a temperature of -18 °C, the potential shelf life of ground beef can be prolonged to a span of 12 months. The effectiveness of this preservation is notably impacted by the packaging methods employed. (3)

When ground meat undergoes vacuum packaging (VP) and is stored at -1 °C, its shelf life can extend to around 100 days. It’s important to recognize, however, that excessively low temperatures, including those below freezing, could lead to a gradual decline in the meat’s quality characteristics over an extended period. (4)

How do freezing and thawing affect ground beef?

Refrigeration serves to slow down both chemical and biological processes in food, thereby offering protection against further deterioration in quality.

However, subjecting food to multiple freeze-thaw cycles has been observed to significantly increase lipid and protein oxidation, while also reducing color stability. Changes in the meat’s color may be attributed to the formation of metmyoglobin, a result of protein oxidation that affects color alterations over repeated freeze-thaw cycles.

In situations where products have been exposed to suboptimal storage conditions, there is a potential for bacterial growth within the beef. This circumstance can give rise to potentially harmful foodborne illnesses, including but not limited to E. coli or salmonella poisoning. (5)

How to safely handle ground beef?

Grinding meat exposes a larger surface area, increasing its vulnerability to harmful bacteria. Bacterial proliferation accelerates within the “Danger Zone,” encompassing temperatures between 40 and 140 °F (4.4 and 60 °C).

To maintain its freshness and inhibit bacterial growth, it’s recommended to refrigerate or freeze ground beef promptly after purchase. If the meat is intended for immediate use, it can be stored in its original packaging.

It’s crucial to avoid leaving ground beef or any perishable food unattended at room temperature for over 2 hours, with a shortened limit of 1 hour at temperatures of 90 °F (32.2 °C) and above. (2)


In this brief guide, we have addressed the question, “Can ground beef be frozen,” and discussed other questions related to the subject, such as how long is frozen ground beef good for and does the taste and texture of ground beef change when frozen.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!



DANG, David S. et al. Crystallization behavior and quality of frozen meat. Foods, v. 10, n. 11, p. 2707, 2021.


U.S. Department of Agriculture. Website. Washington, DC. Ground Beef and Food Safety. 2016.


Nethra, Perichitala Vasudev, et al. Critical factors affecting the shelf life of packaged fresh red meat–A Review. Measurement: Food: 100086. 2023.


Rovira P, Brugnini G, Rodriguez J, Cabrera MC, Saadoun A, de Souza G, Luzardo S, Rufo C. Microbiological Changes during Long-Storage of Beef Meat under Different Temperature and Vacuum-Packaging Conditions. Foods.12(4):694. 2023.


Hamed, Hammad & Ma, M & Damaka, Awhy & Elkhedir, Abdeen & Jin, G. Effect of Freeze and Re-freeze on Chemical Composition of Beef and Poultry Meat at Storage Period 4.5 Months. (SP4.5). 2019.