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« For the Grill: Vietnamese Pork and Lettuce Wraps | Main | Adventures with Adobo »

Cooking Fast: The Simple Joys of Ground Meat

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

Special Fork is all about prepping a great meal fast, spending a maximum of 30 minutes prep time (cooking may be extra).

To get a quick meal to the table, we often turn to ground meats. No-prep, quick-cooking ground beef, pork and poultry (and occasionally lamb and bison) figure prominently in many of our Special Fork recipes.

Recently, some of our ground beef recipes were showcased in Ground Beef Cooking, a magazine by Harris Publications available at your supermarket checkout stand. The recipes, Dinner Baked Stuffed Potatoes by Lori Powell, Mexican Meatball Soup by Joy Liao and Andrew Hunter’s Moroccan Meatballs with Sautéed Carrots & Onions, were highlighted in a section on blogger contributions. We were thrilled to share in the national exposure.

Despite the many ground meat recipes in our database, I realize we’ve never discussed food safety tips, an especially important consideration with any ground meat. Any chunk of meat that’s cut up offers more surface area for harmful bacteria to grow. And grinding enables bacteria to be mixed throughout the meat.

Bacteria multiply rapidly in the "Danger Zone"—temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. So the first rule is to keep ground meat cold at 40°F or lower.

Here are some additional helpful guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Go to the USDA website for more detailed information.

Choose packages of ground meat that feel cold and are not torn. Put the package in a plastic bag to keep any leaks from contaminating other foods in your shopping cart. Buy ground meats last, so they stay chilled as long as possible. If you don’t live close to a supermarket, or if it’s a hot day, take an ice chest to your meat purchases cold.

When you get home, immediately refrigerate or freeze ground meats and use within one or two days. For longer freezer storage, wrap in heavy-duty plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper or freezer bags. It’s best to use frozen ground meats within three to four months. Date your packages and keep a running inventory.

The best way to safely thaw ground meats is in the refrigerator. Keeping meat cold while it is defrosting is essential to prevent the growth of bacteria. Cook or refreeze within one or two days. To defrost ground meats more rapidly, put the meat in a watertight plastic bag and submerge completely in cold tap water, changing water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately. Do not refreeze raw ground meat that has thawed in cold water.

Some Quick Recipes:

The following recipes, which can be prepped in under 30 minutes, will take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes of total time to complete.

  • Super-Speedy Sliders, a recipe by Lori Powell, uses ground beef, bison or chicken and will put dinner on the table in 15 minutes.
  • Turkey Meatloaf Cupcakes, a recipe by one of our Special Fork Food Editors, Joanne Lamb Hayes, takes about 45 minutes, from start to finish. By baking your meatloaf mixture in cupcake tins, you can shave off half the usual baking time.
  • No need to buy pasta sauce. For simple and classic Pasta with Meat Sauce using ground beef or turkey, try this delectable recipe, another contribution from Joanne Lamb Hayes. You can have dinner ready in 35 minutes.
  • Beef Soboro Bento is a typical Japanese bento menu item. In this version, ground beef is seasoned with sake, soy sauce, brown sugar and fresh ginger, and served over rice. The beef can be made up in 15 minutes; cooking the rice takes extra time but an electric rice cooker can do the job while you do the beef.

Turkey Meatloaf Cupcakes photo by Joanne Lamb Hayes


Special Fork is a recipe website for your smartphone and PC that solves the daily dinnertime dilemma: what to cook now! Check out our recipe database for quick ideas that take no more than 30 minutes of prep time. Follow us on Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Related posts:
  1. Slow Cooking in a Fast World
  2. Quick Homemade Meat Sauce for Pasta
  3. Simple Tips for Summer Food Safety
  4. Slicing Meat for Stir-Fries
  5. How to Cook Fast

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