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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Next: How to Pick Ground Beef
How to Pick Ground Beef
The possibilities with ground beef are seemingly endless, though you’ll probably want to pay the most attention to cost and fat content. Naturally, the lower the fat content, the higher the price. A leaner meat; however, may not taste as moist and flavorful, so keep that in mind if you’re making a meal that’s prone to dryness (like meatloaf or hamburgers). Sometimes the extra fat can make or break a dish.
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Next: How to Thaw Ground Beef
How to Thaw Ground Beef
Like other meats, the best way to thaw ground beef is to leave it in the refrigerator. If you’re in a pinch, take out your frozen meat and place it on a plate under running cold water. A microwave may also work, but it is likely to start cooking your meat, which you’ll want to avoid.
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Tamale pie is an American invention that rearranges traditional tamale ingredients into casserole form. Here we make individual-size pies using a muffin pan rather than a large baking dish. If you happen to have any leftover, these taste even better the next day.
What to buy: Masa harina is dried, powdered masa (dried corn that has been cooked and soaked in limewater, then ground while wet); we like Maseca, an instant slaked cornmeal. It’s widely available in Latin markets or the ethnic aisle of many grocery stores, and yields consistent results.
Game plan: If you don’t have a 12-well muffin pan, you can use two 6-well muffin pans; just be sure to bake them side by side in the oven.
This recipe was featured as part of our story on hand-held meals you can make in a muffin pan.