Why You Should Always Pre-Form Ground Beef into Patties

Even if you're not making burgers, it's good to have individual portions of ground meat ready at a moment's notice.

Published Nov. 30, 2021.

You just brought home a pound of ground beef for burger night. Your impulse might be to throw the whole thing straight in the freezer. If it were me, I’d take a few extra minutes to form the beef into patties first. Trust me, it’s well worth it. 

Why is this a good idea? You can pull the pre-formed burger patties out of the freezer at a moment’s notice. No waiting for that huge block of meat to thaw. Even if you’re not making burgers, having small portions of meat on hand is a good idea (say, for making spaghetti sauce). All you need is wax paper; a cutting board; and if you want to be precise, a kitchen scale.

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If you have 1 pound of ground beef, you'll want to figure four quarter-pound patties. Gently break the mound into four pieces. Handle each one with care; don’t squish or press it down if you want to keep the meat tender and loose. 

If you want exact weights, put a piece of wax paper on the scale and weigh out a 4-ounce patty.

Gently shape it into a hockey puck about 4 inches across, and put a divot in the center on one side so that it won’t puff up while it cooks. Repeat until you have all the patties formed. 

Rip or cut wax paper into squares a bit larger than the patties and put one on each side of each patty.

Why wax paper, and not, say, plastic wrap? It doesn’t get frozen or stuck together, so the patties are easier to pry apart later. 

Stack your patties and slide them into a 1-gallon zipper-lock freezer bag. Gently press out the excess air, write the date on it with a permanent marker, and slide it into the freezer. I like to make two stacks of two patties each, so the bag folds into a long, flat rectangle that fits nicely on the freezer shelf.

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When ready to use, just break off a patty from the freezer. (Don’t use your good chef’s knife on frozen food. If necessary, use a small screwdriver and hammer to pry off a patty; a light whack will do the trick.) Then put the frozen patty on a plate and defrost it gently in the microwave, which takes a few minutes. The trick is to underdo the defrosting; you don’t want to start cooking the edges. The rest of the burger will defrost quickly in a hot pan.

And that’s it. A few minutes of prep and you’re ready with portioned ground beef anytime.

Photo: Stoker20, Getty Images

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