Ground Beef

Chef's notes:

Cooking ground beef is a basic endeavor that is frequently screwed up either because the ground beef is still frozen or someone added water to the pan. It is possible to cook ground beef from frozen. It takes a long time, and you have to scrape at it as it cooks. For this article, I thawed my ground beef using a combination of 3 minutes on the defrost cycle in the microwave, followed by a night in the refrigerator. Thawing in the microwave alone usually results in some partially cooked/frozen meat. And thawing in the fridge takes 36 hours. This combination is perfect and thaws meat in 15 hours. So now that you have thawed ground meat, how do you cook it? Read the steps below.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How to Cook Ground Beef From Fresh and/or Frozen in Just a Few Minutes using a Spatula and a Frying Pan

  1. The high-fat content beef is cheaper but you don't get a lot of meat. And the lean stuff is too dry. So what do you get? I buy the 90/10 mix for my ground meat. It is a good middle ground, and there is only slight loss of weight. The meat is still juicy as long as you don’t overcook it. Buy fresh if you can; otherwise use my thawing advice in the introduction.
  2. Breaking the ground beef up before cooking will save you a lot of time. If you just throw the block of meat in the pan, it will cook in that shape and it will be hard to break apart. But, if you break it up ahead of time, it will cook in the traditional granule shape.
  3. Heat a frying pan large enough for the quantity of meat you have. Here I have 1 pound of meat, and this is an 8-inch frying pan. I could squeeze another pound in there if I had to. Heat the pan to just above medium, and either melt 1 Tbsp of butter in the pan or add 1 Tbsp of another fat to fry the beef in. Use your spatula to break apart any large chunks of meat. Stir occasionally. A liquid will appear in the pan; keep cooking until the water, not the oil, evaporates.
  4. After the ground beef has finished cooking, drain the fat. The fine mesh colander is the best way to drain the fat out of the beef. Even though I didn’t use one here, it would be a good idea to catch the fat dripping through the colander. It is not a good idea to let that stuff go down drains. It has tendency to clog things up. One the ground beef has finished draining, do what you want with it. In my case I added it to a tomato sauce and served it over linguine. The recipe is on the right. Enjoy!

Tips & Tricks

  • Even though thawing entirely in the microwave doesn’t necessarily work the best, fresh ground beef can be troublesome if you don’t plan on using it right away. If you are planning on cooking it right away, it is perfectly safe. But if you would prefer to cook from frozen, here is how you do it. Heat up the pan. Put in the brick o’ beef. Add a splash of water and cover. After 2 minutes, remove cover. Scrape at the brick to remove thawed meat. Flip the brick to a new side and scrape at the brick to remove cooked/thawed meat. Add a splash of water, cover, and repeat until the brick is thawed enough to break up into smaller pieces. Then keep working on those pieces to break them up and cook them. Good times.
  • Don’t add water to the ground beef unless you are following the cooking from frozen advice above. Water has the tendency to dry things out.
  • Don’t cover the ground beef while you are browning it. Steam will also dry the meat out.
  • Add the spices right away when you start cooking the meat.

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ¾ cup tomato paste
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp savory
  • ¼ tsp marjoram
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Sweat the onion and garlic in the butter until they get mushy. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 1 hour. Add the cooked ground meat and serve over pasta.