Years ago, I made a terrible mistake. I froze 10 pounds of ground beef. That big block of frozen burger languished in the freezer for years. What was I thinking? I should have browned it first and then frozen it in usable portions. But browning beef can be so messy. Lesson learned.
A few weeks ago, I came upon another cheap ground beef opportunity. My supermarket needed to get rid of — you guessed it — ground beef. Ten pounds. The expiration date was within hours. I almost walked by. Then I decided to try something different, albeit a little weird.
I put the entire 10 pounds of raw ground beef into my ginormous stock pot. I added enough water to cover and set it over high heat to come to a boil — no lid, no salt. After about 10 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 come to a rolling boil.
Next, 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 it at once. This drained off all the liquid into the bowl including the fat, leaving uniformly fine-textured ground beef in the colander. No clumps! I could have done the same thing scooping the meat from the stock pot with a large sieve, transferring the drained beef into a large bowl. (When done draining, I put the beef broth in the refrigerator. Later, I skimmed off the visible fat and will use the broth for soup.)
I measured 2 cups of cooked beef (the equivalent of about 1 pound of raw ground beef) into a gallon-size zip-type freezer bag, pressed out the air and zipped, repeating until all of the beef was bagged. Then I laid each one on the counter to flatten it thin, stacked them like sheets of paper and popped the entire stack into the freezer.
Because my bags of beef are so flat, I can use them frozen — no microwave required. I take one of these flat frozen packages of ground beef, whack it on the side of the sink to break it into pieces, unzip and pour the contents into a skillet. It’s ready for all uses.
Quick as a Flash Burrito Filling: Two bags of boiled beef whacked and dumped into skillet (equivalent of 2 pounds raw ground beef), two packets of Lawry’s Burrito Seasoning Mix (any brand will do) and 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Done! Wrap in warm flour tortillas with grated cheese. Serves 8-10.
Sloppy Joes: Two bags boiled beef (equivalent of 2 pounds raw ground beef) whacked and dumped, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1 cup chopped celery, 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed tomato soup, 1/4 cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder and 8 hamburger buns.
Place ground beef in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery, cover the pan and cook over medium heat until beef is thawed and onions and celery are tender, about five minutes. Add the tomato soup (undiluted), brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar,and Worcestershire sauce to the beef mixture. Stir to mix. Season with salt and garlic powder. Simmer over low heat until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Spoon the hot beef mixture onto buns, which may be toasted first. Serves 8.