According to the United States Department of Agriculture, frozen ground beef remains safe for consumption indefinitely, but people should consume beef within 4 months after freezing, which ensures the best taste and quality. Prior to freezing ground beef, consumers should pack beef tightly in aluminum foil, plastic bags or heavy-duty wrap. The USDA recommends clearly marking packages indicating package contents and date of freezing, which helps keep track of the storage date.
In addition to following protocol for freezing beef, consumers should take several steps for thawing and consuming frozen ground beef. After removing from the freezer, consumers should ideally thaw the meat in the refrigerator. Doing so keeps the beef cold, in turn preventing the growth of bacteria and pathogens. After thawing, use the meat within 1 to 2 days. Alternatively, people may unfreeze meat more quickly using the microwave or cold water. If using the microwave, the USDA recommends cooking the beef immediately after removal, as the beef heats unevenly during the microwave warming process. If defrosting beef in cold water, wrap it tightly in a waterproof bag, then place the bag in cold water, covering the entire bag. Changing the water every 30 minutes ensures the water remains cold and the beef stays safe. The USDA recommends cooking water-thawed beef immediately. Consumers may refreeze unused portions of cooked beef only.