How to defrost burgers

When dinner depends on thawing that solid brick of ground beef, here are 3 ways to get it done safely and quickly.

Ground beef is one of the most versatile ingredients to stockpile in your freezer, especially given that it only lasts a few days in the fridge. But defrosting it the wrong way can risk the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. Fortunately, we have the easiest and most efficient strategies for thawing ground beef quickly and safely:

If you have 12 to 24 hours…

If you know ahead of time that you want to use your ground beef, thawing it in the refrigerator is the safest way to do so. It takes about 24 hours to fully thaw one pound of ground beef in the refrigerator, but if your beef is in smaller frozen batches it will defrost faster. Be sure to place the package on a plate to catch any drippings or juice that sneaks out as the meat defrosts. The best part: If your dinner plans change, the ground beef will keep raw in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days before it needs to be cooked.

If you have 1 hour…

With only an hour or so to go before supper and a pound of frozen ground beef in your hands, you can defrost it in a bowl of cold water. First, make sure the frozen beef is in a sealed and leak-proof package, then submerge it in a bowl of cold tap water—warm or hot water might seem like they would speed up the thawing process, but they will heat the outer layer of beef too quickly, risking the growth of bacteria. For this reason, you should also change the water or add a few ice cubes every 30 minutes to keep it from getting too warm. One pound of beef will take about one hour to defrost in a bowl of water, then it should be cooked right away.

If you have 5 minutes…

For days when what to make for dinner is the last thing on your mind, you can use the microwave to quickly defrost ground beef. Remove all packaging, then place the meat on a plate and microwave it at 50% power for 2 to 3 minutes, rotating and flipping the beef every 45 seconds, until it is fully thawed. Some of the outer parts of the meat might start to cook, which is why you should use the ground beef immediately after defrosting it in the microwave.

Can I refreeze my thawed ground beef?

Whether or not you can safely refreeze ground beef after thawing depends on the method you use to defrost it. If you decide not to use your ground beef after defrosting it in the refrigerator, you can stick it back in the freezer within 48 hours with no risk of bacteria growth. But if you use cold water or the microwave to defrost your meat and then decide you don’t want to use it, it’s best to cook it first before refreezing it.

Check out our collection of Ground Beef Recipes.

Dinner can be ready in an hour, even if that chicken is still in the freezer, thanks to these four recommended methods.

How to defrost burgers

How to defrost burgers

We love to keep our freezer stocked with frozen chicken breasts and sausages (hello, easy weeknight dinner), well-marbled steaks, and all the ground beef and turkey you can fit for homemade meatballs or burger nights. And if you know how to defrost meat fast (and safely too!), you can achieve a home-cooked meal on a weeknight in very little time.

The best and safest way to defrost meat is overnight in the refrigerator, until it is completely thawed. After thawing, ground meat, poultry, and seafood should keep well in the refrigerator for an extra day or two, while red meat (beef, pork, lamb, and steak) stays good for 3 to 5 more days. Plus, if you thaw meat in the refrigerator, you can freeze it again safely.

But what if you need to defrost steak in a hurry? What if that chicken breast didn’t completely thaw overnight? What if you’re just really hungry? We’re not here to judge. There are a few methods to speed up the process and defrost any cut of meat quickly and safely. Take your pick based on how much time ‘til dinner.

The Cold Water Method (One Hour)

This is the best way to quickly and properly defrost meat without a microwave. Place your frozen cut of meat in a resealable plastic bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Fill a large bowl with cold water and submerge the bag in the water. Change the water every 30 minutes to ensure that it stays cold and continues to thaw the meat. Smaller cuts of meat, poultry or seafood (about a pound) can thaw in an hour or less, larger quantities (3 to 4 pounds) may take 2–3 hours. Estimate about 30 minutes per pound for whole frozen turkeys. We don’t recommend refreezing that meat once it’s been thawed, unless you cook it first. Tip: use your thawed meat to make big batches of soups or stews!

The Microwave Method (10 Minutes)

Learn how to defrost meat in the microwave and you can have prepped protein in under 10 minutes — really. This method works best for smaller cuts of meat that will be cooked all the way through after thawing, like chicken breast for a stir-fry or ground beef for tacos. Read up on your microwave’s instruction manual to learn the best way to defrost a specific cut of meat according to the microwave’s settings. If your microwave doesn’t have a “defrost” setting, set it at a lower power level and run in short bursts until the meat is thawed. Be careful though, cooking at too high a heat or for too long can actually cook the meat instead of defrosting. No matter what, as soon as you’re done thawing, cook the meat right away.

Cook Without Thawing

When you’re really in a pinch, you don’t have to thaw frozen meat before cooking. Believe it or not, it’s safe to cook fresh-out-of-the-freezer blocks of ground turkey, solid cuts of chicken, and bricks of ice-cold steak. The meat will take longer to cook (about 50% more time), and it’s not ideal for achieving golden-crispy skin or a perfect sear. However, it’s an option that’s always there for you — even when perfectly thawed protein isn’t.

How to defrost burgers

Just avoid cooking frozen meat in the slow cooker — it can spend too much time thawing and become unsafe to eat.

Methods to Avoid Thawing Entirely

We get it — you need to defrost ground beef fast because it’s Taco Tuesday, or maybe you’re craving a Classic Spaghetti Bolognese. While there are sources that claim you can thaw frozen meat in hot water or simply leave it out on the counter, the USDA says this isn’t safe, and any piece of thawed meat should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.

Can you freeze hamburger buns? Whether made lovingly at home or store-bought, hamburger buns freeze beautifully. That’s quite a relief knowing that these buns are sold in large packs! Leftovers are inevitable. Do note that freezing any type of bread can turn dicey pretty quickly when done the wrong way.

You see, bread is prone to mold growth and moisture loss. Once the hamburger buns are frozen and thawed, the likelihood of mold growth is quite high. This goes especially if the buns were left sitting at room temperature for more than 4 hours.

Moisture loss is also an issue when freezing hamburger buns because of the freezing temperature. Once the buns lost their moistness, they become tough, chewy, and unpalatable. The best hamburger buns to freeze are the freshest ones. Stale hamburger buns tend to taste off once they’ve been frozen and defrosted.

How to Freeze Hamburger Buns?

Freezing Leftover Hamburger Buns

It’s never a good idea to use the buns’ original packaging for freezing if the pack has been opened. The packaging will not provide enough protection from the freezing temperature.

To start, prepare several squares of aluminum foil. Make sure each square is large enough to wrap the bun fully. Wrap all the hamburger buns in aluminum foil, making sure there are no exposed parts. Place all the wrapped hamburger buns in a large resealable plastic bag. Give the plastic bag a good squeeze to remove as much air as possible before sealing. Write the storage date then stick in the freezer. You can also use cling wrap if you don’t have aluminum foil.

Freezing Unopened Packs of Hamburger Buns

If say, you have several unopened packs of hamburger buns that are nearing their expiry dates; you can store them in the freezer. No need to wrap the buns individually in aluminum foil, just place the unopened packs of hamburger buns in a large resealable plastic bag. Give the plastic bag a good squeeze to remove as much air as possible before sealing. Write the storage date then stick in the freezer.

Creative Ways of Using Leftover Hamburger Buns

Trouble using up your leftover hamburger buns? It’s so easy to incorporate the buns in various recipes!

Bread Pudding

One of the best ways to use any type of leftover bread is to make bread pudding. This fabulous dessert can be enjoyed any time of the day. It’s easy to make too! Just replace your regular bread with leftover hamburger bread buns then prep the ingredients according to the recipe.


Want a quick and light breakfast or snack? Instead of using whole grain bread or sourdough for making paninis, use your leftover hamburger buns. The end result is just as delicious. Fill each bun with your favorite fillings (cheese, salami, pepperoni, etc.), grill the buns and you have a delicious snack within minutes.

French Toast

Who says you have to use sliced bread for French toast? Since the recipe calls for thick-sliced bread, leftover hamburger buns make a fabulous alternative to sliced bread. To make this delectable dessert breakfast, dip the hamburger buns in a mixture of eggs, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pop the buns in the oven or cook on the stove and voila, breakfast is served!

Chocolate and Bread Parfaits

Wow your family with a delectable chocolate and bread parfait! Try this recipe and use leftover hamburger buns instead of sliced bread to give every meal a sweet finish!


Old bread makes the perfect thickener. Hamburger buns can be used up to make a delectable batch of white Gazpacho. This recipe takes only 20 minutes to put together. Just swap the whole-grain bread with hamburger buns.

Shelf Life, Thawing, and Reheating Suggestions

When kept in the freezer, hamburger buns remain usable for at least 3 to 6 months. But don’t wait for months before consuming your supply, use up the buns immediately for optimal flavor and texture.

To defrost the hamburger buns, simply leave them to thaw on the kitchen counter. Thawing the frozen hamburger buns in the fridge increases the risk of mold growth. By leaving them on the counter, the buns will thaw much more quickly and they’ll absorb the moisture, softening the buns right up.

After thawing, you can reheat the buns in many ways. You can warm them up in the oven. Just preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and lay the buns in a parchment-lined baking sheet. Rub an ice cube or dab a little water over the buns then reheat for 5 minutes or until soft and golden.

You can also warm the hamburger buns in the microwave for 20 seconds on high. Place the hamburger buns in a microwave-safe plate, dab a little water over the buns then stick in the microwave until soft and warm. You can also try laying a dampened paper towel over the buns before microwaving to keep the buns nice and moist.

Finally, you can also toast the defrosted bun in a toaster oven. Cut the buns in the middle (if they’re not pre-cut already) using a sharp knife, lay a couple on the toaster pan, pop the pan in the toaster then reheat until warm and slightly browned.


Can you freeze hamburger buns? Freezing may be an unconventional way of extending the shelf life of bread but it works beautifully with hamburger buns. Try it the next time you have more hamburger buns than you can handle. But don’t forget to keep our storage tips in mind for optimal flavor.

  1. How Long Can Meat Stay out of the Freezer Before You Cook It?
  2. Temperature of a Medium-Well Hamburger
  3. How Long Does It Take for Pork to Spoil When Not Refrigerated?
  4. Can You Defrost Hamburger in Hot Water?
  5. How Long Does It Take for Ground Beef to Go Bad Unrefrigerated?

How to defrost burgers

Foodborne illness sickens an estimated 48 million people every year, according to the USDA. Spoiled, undercooked or mishandled ground beef presents a particular hazard, as harmful bacteria can be distributed throughout the meat during the grinding process. To reduce your risk of illness, use your senses to detect if meat has spoiled, and safely store your hamburger meat to maximize its shelf life.

Signs of Spoilage

Hamburger meat that smells rancid or sour, like vinegar, has probably spoiled; this applies to both cooked and raw hamburger meat. Especially when found in conjunction with other indicators of spoilage, such brown or gray areas on the surface of raw ground beef, an off odor is always a bad sign. If you suspect your hamburger meat is bad, discard it immediately for safety purposes.

Shelf Life of Hamburger

Raw hamburger meat, or any variety of ground beef, should be used within two days of purchase. If you freeze your hamburger before this time, it will keep indefinitely at 0 degrees Fahrenheit; however, for optimum quality, aim to use it within four months. Cooked hamburger can be refrigerated for up to four days; it can also be frozen indefinitely, but try to use it within three months for best quality.

Proper Storage Is Essential

To prevent premature spoilage, proper storage is key. Raw meat should be kept refrigerated from the moment you bring it home from the store until you’re ready to cook it. Cooked hamburger, on the other hand, can stay at room temperature for up to two hours, or one hour on days above 90 F, before it must be refrigerated. Keep unused hamburger in its original packaging, and leftovers in shallow, airtight containers. If you plan to freeze it long-term, overwrap the original packaging with aluminum foil, or seal leftovers in a heavy-duty freezer bag to minimize freezer burn.

Safely Thawing

Another opportunity for hamburger to spoil is during improper thawing. Never leave it out on the counter to thaw, as harmful bacteria will grow once the surface of the meat warms to 40 F. The best way to thaw hamburger is in the refrigerator. A faster approach is the cold water method: immerse the package of beef in cold water, changing the water every 15 minutes until thawed. You can also thaw frozen hamburger in the microwave, but this may result in a less-than-optimal texture. For safety purposes, you must immediately cook meat that has been thawed using either the cold water or microwave methods.

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How to defrost burgers

Ground beef is often frozen to prevent spoiling. Before frozen ground beef can be cooked it must be thawed. There are three safe methods that can be used to thaw ground beef. The beef can be defrosted in the refrigerator, in a microwave, or by being submerged in cold water. It is not recommended to thaw ground beef at room temperature as this can lead to bacteria growth and make the meat unsafe to eat.

The fastest way to thaw ground beef is in the microwave. Many models of microwaves have a defrost function which can be set for ground beef. The total time to do this typically depends on the weight of the meat being thawed. While it is defrosting in the microwave, some parts may begin cooking so it is important to thoroughly cook the beef as soon as possible after removing from the microwave. Ground beef that is thawed in this way must be cooked before it can be refrozen.

A bowl of cold water can also be used to thaw ground beef. The meat should be placed in an airtight plastic bag before being placed in the cold water. The water should be changed every 30 minutes until the ground beef is thawed, making sure that it does not reach a temperature above 70°F (21°C). Warm or hot water should not be used as it can promote bacteria growth. Beef thawed using this method must be cooked immediately and also can’t be refrozen until fully prepared.

The safest method to thaw ground beef is to leave it in a refrigerator set between 34 to 40°F (1 to 4°C) for one to two days. Thawing slowly in a cold environment inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. The meat should be wrapped tightly and placed on a plate or in a pan to prevent liquids from dripping and contaminating other food while it thaws. Unlike the other two thawing methods, ground beef thawed in a refrigerator can be refrozen before cooking if necessary. The meat can usually safely be stored in the refrigerator for an additional one to two days after thawing.

It is not safe to thaw ground beef at room temperature by leaving it sitting on a table or counter top. This method allows the beef to become too warm, which often leads to rampant bacteria growth. Unsafe thawing can lead to serious food-borne illness, and should therefore be avoided.

How to defrost burgers

As a meat eater, I must say that Beyond Burgers are impressively amazing! A healthy option, but still has that punch and deliciousness that I am used to J

With that said, you ended up here because you are probably super-hungry and want to know how to quickly thaw Beyond Burgers so you can take that big bite to satisfy your craving.

Not to worry, we look at the recommended and quick methods available, highlighting some important information you need to know about each one.

How Do You Thaw Beyond Burger Quickly?

How to defrost burgers

Beyond Meats, manufacturer’s of the Beyond Burger, answered that question with a Facebook post to a user who had a similar concern.

They stated “we recommend thawing the Beyond Burgers overnight in a refrigerator before cooking. They can be cooked from frozen in a pinch, though it would likely require extending the cooking time by a few minutes on each side. I hope this helps!”

As you can see, defrosting Beyond Burgers overnight is the recommended method to prep them for cooking, but they can be cooked from frozen if you need to have them sizzling and ready in a hurry.

Ideally, it is best to have them thawed out as you can add your own seasoning or whatever you like to the meat before cooking.

A quick thawing method people use is the microwave. We will look at that in more detail below.

Can You Use the Microwave to Defrost Beyond Burgers?

How to defrost burgers

While you can cook a Beyond Burger directly from frozen, it is best to have them thawed out so you can add your favorite seasoning to enhance the overall flavor of these delicious burgers.

If you need to cook the burgers immediately, then having them thaw overnight will not help you.

In a case like this, the microwave can be used as a quick and effective method to defrost your Beyond Burger.

Most Microwaves have a defrost setting, which is usually 30 percent power. This setting will allow the burger patties to defrost, but it isn’t as simple as ‘set it and forget it’.

As Twitter user @chronically1999 found out, thawing your Beyond Burger patties in the microwave can result in disaster if not done properly.

How to defrost burgers

There are two things you need to be aware of when using the microwave to defrost food, especially these types of burger patties.

Leaving it in Too Long Can Turn It Into Mush

While the microwave can thaw your burger, you need to be actively monitoring it. If you keep it in too long, it will just turn soggy and into mush, as @chronically1999 found out.

The trick is to let the microwave run for about 30 seconds in defrost mode. Once finished, check to see if it is defrosted to your liking. If not, let it go in the microwave for 5-10 more seconds, repeating until fully thawed.

The Microwave Can Cook Your Burger

Even though the microwave uses a lower power setting in defrost mode, there is also the possibility of the microwave starting to cook the Beyond Burger, while it also turns into a soggy mess if you leave it in too long.

When it comes to safe microwave defrosting, you should know that “As food is defrosting in the microwave, the edges of the food may begin to warm or slightly cook while the inside of the food remains frozen.”

When thawing your burger meat, do it in short bursts and constantly check to ensure that it is not cooking while it thaws and that it is not becoming mushy.

At the end of the day, try not to end up like this Twitter user below.

I tried to cook a beyond meat burger. I FAILED. MISERABLY.

Wrapping it up

Do you need to thaw a Beyond Burger before cooking them? The answer is a yeas and no.

Beyond Meats recommends that they are thawed overnight before you cook them. However, they also stated that if you are in a rush, you can cook them directly from frozen.

If you have a microwave, you can use it to defrost your burger patties quickly, you just need to not let the microwave run too long, as there is a chance it could start to cook your burger, as well as turn the patties into mush.

Flip through our guide for defrosting meat, then watch our how-to video.

Related To:

How to defrost burgers

Follow these easy steps for success every time you defrost meat.

How to defrost burgers

Step 1: Defrost Overnight
The best way to thaw meat safely is to plan ahead. Defrost it overnight on a plate in the refrigerator. By the next day, you’re ready to cook.

How to defrost burgers

Step 2: Safety Tip
Never keep meat at room temperature for more than two hours. Once you’ve thawed frozen meat, you can’t refreeze it unless it’s in a stock, soup or liquid.

How to defrost burgers

Step 3: Cooking Frozen Meat the Same Day
If you have frozen meat you want to cook today, there is a faster way to thaw: the “cold water” method. Keep the chopped or ground meat wrapped tight. Note: Proper packaging prevents bacteria from forming and water from seeping in.

How to defrost burgers

Step 4: Cold-Water Thawing
Place the wrapped meat in a large bowl and fill with cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes as the meat continues to thaw. A 1-pound package of meat can thaw in an hour or less. Packages of 3 to 4 pounds can take more than two hours.

One of life’s simple joys is to have a freezer full of ButcherBox’s delicious meat, easily accessible whenever you want an amazing meal.

But we understand that knowing exactly what to do with your frozen meat can be a little confusing. At ButcherBox, we’re lucky to have in-house meat industry experts and experienced chefs who can answer our most pressing frozen meat storage and defrosting questions. We put together this guide, to share that wisdom.

At the bottom of this post, we’ve also included some advice on what you can do to organize your meat and maximize freezer space after your frozen meat arrives on your doorstep.

What to know about defrosting in the refrigerator

The safest way to thaw frozen meat is in the refrigerator. Generally, an average size cut of meat takes a day to fully defrost in a fridge. Larger cuts or whole birds (like a turkey) take about 24 hours per five pounds to thaw.

The times mentioned below are what the USDA recommends for storing meat after it has defrosted in the fridge.

How long different proteins and cuts stay fresh in the fridge

Defrosting Chicken

Due to ButcherBox’s vacuum-seal packaging, our chicken can last between 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. (If the vacuum seal is broken, stick to the standard 1-2 day recommendation for poultry.)

Defrosting Beef

When it comes to steaks or roasts, if the original packaging is sealed tight, it can remain in the refrigerator for almost two weeks. However, outside of its packaging or if the packaging is torn, beef is good for 3-5 days once defrosted in the refrigerator.

Ground beef is a little different. It stays fresh for 1-2 days in the fridge once it defrosts.

Defrosting Pork

The rules for pork also differ depending on the cut. Most larger pork cuts — roasts, pork butt — come in stronger, vacuum-sealed packages. Like steaks, they will remain good for up to two weeks defrosted in the refrigerator.

However, smaller cuts of pork that are in individual cut packaging will remain fresh for 3-5 days if it remains vacuum-sealed or 1-2 days if the packaging seal is broken or if you’ve removed it from its original packaging.

Once you defrost bacon, it will remain good for 7 days in the refrigerator.

Defrosting Fish

After salmon and other seafood has been defrosted, it too will be fresh for an additional one to two days if defrosted in the refrigerator. One thing to note for all seafood: Make sure you take seafood out of its packaging before you defrost it. It is not safe to defrost fish in its vacuum-sealed packaging where bacteria can form without oxygen.

Defrosting any meat outside of the refrigerator

The rules are a bit different if you defrost the meat outside of the fridge or with cold water.

Thawing Meat in Cold Water

If you want to defrost frozen meat quickly, you can do so by putting the meat in cold water — which can remain running or which you change out every 30 minutes. However, you should make sure that the packaging is sealed tightly; if not, you can put the meat in a sealed plastic bag to defrost in cold water.

Additionally, this requires active attention. You should not leave any meat in the sink indefinitely.

A one-pound cut of meat can defrost within an hour by using this cold water method.

Check out Chef Yankel’s tips for defrosting in water in the video below. (BONUS: Watch the video to the end for an easy trick to dry a steak which will lead to better a better sear and a tender steak.)

Defrosting on the Kitchen Counter? Hot Water?

It is not recommended that you defrost meat by leaving it out at room temperature on the kitchen counter, because you shouldn’t leave meat out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. This will bring it to the “danger zone” temperatures where bacteria can form. The same is true of thawing with hot water.

If you are in a pinch, you can defrost with cold running water or cook from frozen, as mentioned above.

For more on defrosting meat and other foods, check out the FDA/USDA website on defrosting, The Big Thaw.

What are you going to cook this week?

We’ve found the best step to take when you receive your ButcherBox is to first figure out which cuts you want to cook within the next five days. Those cuts can go into your refrigerator to defrost.

When you do defrost in the refrigerator, make sure to put the frozen meat on a dish or bowl or in a large, sealable bag. Sometimes, the frozen packaging gets small tears due to being jostled during shipping; this does not affect the flavor, quality, or safety of the meat. But you may have some liquid in the packaging leak as it defrosts. This is a combination of two compounds found in animal muscles: Myoglobin — the protein that gives meat its color and is full of dietary iron — and water. Basically, you don’t want to take the risk that any liquid could potentially leak in your refrigerator.

Additionally, make sure to remember the different rules for defrosting seafood: It should be removed from its original vacuum-sealed packaging to defrost.

Take the rest of your frozen meat and put it right into the freezer where it can remain, frozen, for more than a year. (In theory, you can keep frozen meat indefinitely, however, for quality purposes, the USDA has some guidelines that you can find here on how long you should keep it frozen.)

We think that this is the best way to get you cooking the ButcherBox meat you want in the next few days and how to save the rest for later in the month.