Learn how to cook ground beef the right way so it stays juicy and delicious even after you pull it out of the freezer. Good in so many recipes, makes dinner prep a breeze, this one is a shelf cooking win for sure!

ground beef in a skillet, from Shelf Cooking

There are so many different things you can do with cooked ground beef. We're talking anything from nachos, to shepherds pie, to cabbage soup! It really is so versatile. Having some precooked meat ready to pull out of the freezer at a moments notice makes meal prep so quick and easy!

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We'll show you how to cook the perfect ground beef, every single time, so it's ready to toss into whatever recipe is calling your name! Make a big batch and freeze for later use. You'll thank yourself next time taco Tuesday rolls around and your meat is already cooked to perfection.


ground beef on a counter, from Shelf Cooking

Shopping for ground beef can be overwhelming when there are so many choices! There's ground beef in trays wrapped in plastic and then there are chubs sealed in a plastic tube-like wrappers that come in all sizes from one pound to fifteen. Not only is there a variety of packaging, each package comes in multiple grinds ranging from 97% to 75% lean. What is a shopper to do!?

Here are a couple of go-to rules of thumb you can count on next time you're shopping for ground beef:

  • Leaner = Healthier – Use leaner cuts of ground beef for casseroles, tacos, and meatloafs. This grind is slightly more expensive but it may be worth it if the health benefits are important to you!
  • More Fat = Juicier Flavor – Use a fattier chuck ground beef for things like burgers and meatballs for a juicier flavor. The fat also helps keep the burger from crumbling while you cook it.

Ground beef in chubs is typically a little less expensive than the trays. We like to buy as much as we can at one time and cook it all up to save for later use. Don't be afraid of the 10 or 15 pound chub—it WILL save you money in the long run and it freezes so well!

If you want the leaner grind but can't stomach the higher price point, we have a pro tip trick for you! Once your ground beef is cooked (but not seasoned), drain off the excess fat (grease) and then put the beef crumbles into a fine colander. Rinse the cooked ground beef lightly with warm water to wash away some of the extra fat. It may sound strange, but it works!


We love ground beef SO MUCH because it is a shelf cooking dream! It freezes beautifully and will last for 3-4 months in your freezer, just waiting to be dumped into a delicious pot of soup or reheated and seasoned for taco salad. By freezing the ground beef unseasoned, it allows you to use it in any recipe!

If you are making extra to freeze, let your ground beef cool a bit after cooking, then add into your freezer bags. Quart sized bags are a great size for one meal portions. Check out these tips for how to avoid freezer burn every single time. Make sure you label and date so you know what it is next time you take inventory of your stock!


beef burrito on a plate, from Shelf Cooking

Here's a list of our favorite recipes to use pre-cooked ground beef in!

These are just a few of our favorites, but the possibilities are limitless! Check out this list of 100 dinner ideas and challenge yourself to shelf cook some of these with your cooked ground beef. You got this!


One of the best things about cooking ground beef is how fast and easy it is. Literally 10-15 minutes from opening the package until done. You can't beat that!

All you need is a pan, a stove top, and your ground beef and you're ready to go. Empty your ground beef into your pan and place on the stove at medium heat. There isn't any reason to put anything in the pan with the meat because the fat within the beef will act as the oil.

We prefer to use cast iron pans to cook ground beef because it tends to help the beef crumbles develop that deliciously irresistible browning on the outside, but any pan will work just fine!

ground beef in a skillet, from Shelf Cooking

Easiest Ground Beef Ever

This method for cooking ground beef is so simple, it will be your go-to every time!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people


  • 1 lb ground beef (or more!)


  • (Optional) Set the ground beef out on the counter for 20 minutes before cooking.
  • Press your ground beef into your pan and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes without disturbing.
  • Once the bottom has formed a nice brown crust, flip it over and let the other side cook for 5 minutes before you break up the meat into crumbles.
  • Continue cooking for 5-10 more minutes, or until the meat is cooked throughout with a nice crispy brown outside.


Store meal-sized portions in freezer baggies and put in the fridge to cool. Once cool, lay flat in the freezer. Once it's frozen, you can stand it up to make more room!
Keyword easy, freezer, make-ahead

What is your favorite way to use up pre-cooked ground beef? Share with us in the comments below!

ground beef in a cast iron pan, from Shelf Cooking

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