As with most meat, the safest way to thaw beef is in the refrigerator. Small cuts of beef can take up to 24 hours, while larger slabs can take a few days. If you’re in a pinch, frozen beef can be thawed in a bowl or container of lukewarm water. Place the bowl or container in the sink and leave under a running faucet. Never allow raw beef to thaw or sit on a counter or cutting board. Since it takes longer to thaw than most meats, it is more susceptible to bacteria growth.
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In order to effectively freeze beef, you’ll want to limit its exposure to air. This not only prevents the production of freezer burn, but also extends its shelf life to three months or longer. The best way to package beef is to wrap it tightly in freezer paper or plastic wrap. You should then wrap the meat in a layer of aluminum foil or place it in a plastic bag.
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For ground beef, keep refrigerated and use within one to two days. It can stay in its original container if the packaging hasn’t been opened. Steaks follow the same protocol, but can last a bit longer at three to five days. It’s actually best to allow a little airflow with stored meat, as tightly-adhered plastic like Saran wrap can make meat sweat and, as a result, less tender. Meat can be transferred to plastic containers, but should be covered loosely.
Never refrigerate raw meat if it’s been sitting out beyond two hours.
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Grace Young, author of Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, uses oyster sauce and two types of ginger—fresh and pickled—in this light yet satisfying dish of juicy beef and crisp vegetables. She demonstrates the proper stir-frying technique in this video.
Special equipment: If you don’t have a wok, Young suggests a large frying pan as a substitute. Don’t use a nonstick pan, because the high heat may damage it.
What to buy: Oyster sauce is a thick brown sauce that is made from oysters. Quality varies between brands. Young likes the Lee Kum Kee brand. Vegetarian oyster sauce, made from mushrooms, can be substituted. Oyster sauce is available in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores.
Pickled ginger develops a pink hue as it ages, but some brands add artificial coloring, beet juice, sweeteners, or preservatives. We like the Ginger People brand for its natural ingredients and fresh taste. You can find pickled ginger in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores, or, for a wider selection, at Asian markets.