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Hamburgers for one?

I live alone and I'm craving hamburgers. I bought a pound of ground beef not too long ago and froze it, and I'm defrosting it in the fridge now to make Mapo tofu tonight. That'll only use about 1/4 a pound, though, so the rest will be for hamburgers.

Since I'll only be able to eat one a day, what's the best way to preserve the ground beef? Can I mix it with spices, make it into patties, and refrigerate the patties? Or is it better to cook it and then refrigerate?

I know I can't freeze it, as I've already thawed the meat once.

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  1. Unless you are absolutely sure you'll be able to cook the patties tomorrow, I would cook them tonight. You can then keep them in the fridge for 3, maybe 4 days, or freeze them. Yes, you can freeze it again once it's been cooked.

    3 Replies
    1. re: MrsJonesey

      3-4 days? When I was a kid, as long as it didn't grow mold or smell bad we ate it. Cooked burgers are good for a week. ;)

      1. re: mrsfury

        I would rather err on the side of caution when telling someone else how long meat will last.

        1. re: mrsfury

          It depends on personal taste and how efficient your refrigerator is. I find cooked meat is usually a bit 'off' smelling/tasting by the end of the week, so five days is my personal limit for keeping leftovers.

      2. You could also make another dish today with the remaining meat and reheat for dinner in a day or two or three. Make your mapo tofu, make your burger patty for tomorrow, and cook the remaining for tacos or pasta sauce (both of which are examples you could then refreeze for later use).

        1. I wouldn't pre-cook them.

          The patties should keep for a couple of days, at least, wrapped in saran wrap in the coldest part of the fridge.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Agreed. If the meat came from a reputable source, and you handle it safely (meaning don't let it warm up, handle it minimally and quickly), they should last for several days in the fridge, individually wrapped.

          2. Cooked hamburger patties can be reheated effectively, carefully, in a microwave. Then just assemble the burger.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Bada Bing

              If the hamburgers are cooked to anything less than well done, no matter how careful you are with the microwave, you'll end up with well done burgers. At least I've never been able to reheat meat to the same doneness as originally cooked. The only effective way I've found of heating meat is sous vide, so you can control the temperature. I've done the homebrew version to reheat steak cooked to rare using a hot water bath with the steak in a ziplock with the air sucked out, and it works well.

              If you like your burgers cooked to well done, then by all means, nuke em and you'll never know the difference.

              1. re: foreverhungry

                As I alluded to above, if I'm going to save a burger for the next day, I slightly offset my grill pan (or skillet) on the burner. I then put the two burgers on it, one directly over the heat and one on the cooler side. When the one over the heat is done, the second burger is only partially cooked.

                The next day, I put the second burger in a steamer, or a colander over a pan of boiling water. After a few minutes the burger is cooked and warmed through, still moist and juicy.

                1. re: JonParker

                  Until mentioned here, I'd never thought about steaming. That's a really good idea.

                  1. re: JonParker

                    Yeah, I forgot that I've used steaming, too. (It really rarely comes up around here, though--leftover hamburgers!)

                    1. re: foreverhungry

                      I guess I think of reheated hamburgers as a relatively compromised foodstuff, so perhaps shooting for a medium rare interior is fussier than I get. As long as the thing is not dried out, I'm fine. But your sous vide approach is sensible.

                      When I use a microwave to reheat anything, though, I don't really see it as a cooking device. I'll take a serving or two of whatever needs reheating, enclose it between two matching plates or bowls, one inverted on the other, with a little bit of water added usually. Then I'll nuke for, say 30-40 seconds, leave it for a minute, nuke again for 20-30 seconds, leave it another minute. The object is to bring the food gently up to a temperature worth eating, and no more, letting the heat spread slowly around. The times adjust upward or downward according to the food mass involved, of course.

                  2. You're getting a ton of different responses here, so there's no good reason why you should take my word for it, but unless the beef was on or past its expiration date when you froze it it should be fine for a couple days in the fridge.

                    If you do precook your burgers, don't reheat them in the microwave. Steam them, either in a steamer or an improvised one made from a saucepan and colander. It'll keep them from turning into hockey pucks.

                    1. I make hamburgers for one all the time. For all except the one I'm going to eat right away, I under-grill them a bit, then wrap them indiviually and refreeze. They reheat just fine in the microwave.

                      1. 3/4 lb hamburger amounts to maybe 3 patties. Mix with a couple tbsp of BBQ sauce and same of steak sauce. Form in to patties and refrigerate. Get a pan hot, salt and pepper the pan and fry away until desired doneness. That's for one at a time. Or do them all at once and nuke later on.

                        1. As an aside I've never heard of ma po tofu made with beef but sounds interesting.

                          I'm curious why you'd think you can't refreeze ground beef. I thought refreezing meat simply effected the texture of it and with ground that shouldn't be a problem.

                          In the future you may want to divide the meat when you get it home. We grind our own, make patties, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then they go in a zipping bag. Keep perfectly that way.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: c oliver

                            Fuschia Dunlop's wonderful ma po tofu recipe uses ground beef which she says is traditional despite the fact that pork a more usual Sichuan ingredient. Everytime I've seen it in an US restaurant it's been with ground pork though.

                            1. re: CampStreet

                              I haven't made her recipe but shall. Thanksk.

                            2. re: c oliver

                              Exactly, it's another old wives tale.

                              The U. S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) advises, "Once food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through thawing. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. If previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion. Freeze leftovers within 3-4 days. Do not refreeze any foods left outside the refrigerator longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F.

                              1. re: mexivilla

                                But some people simply don't want to believe the facts. I find the USDA to be so ultraconservative that when they say things like this I KNOW it must be so.

                                1. re: mexivilla

                                  Yes. Not sure why people persist in thinking you can't refreeze something. And in the case of hamburger meat, I can attest from experience that any loss of quality is minimal.

                                  I am often eating solo, and I will thaw a pound or so of ground beef, make it into four burgers, and refreeze 3 and grill one. The burgers that are refrozen raw and cooked later, are way better than a reheated cooked patty could ever be.

                              2. I would much prefer to refreeze the meat than reheat the burgers later. They will cook up just fine putting them in the pan frozen also. Make them into patties, individually wrap and put in the freezer.

                                1. I will offer this for the folks who are interested. You can reheat burgers in the microwave without drying them out. You just need to experiment with the power level. In my 1000 watt microwave, I would maybe start with 1 minute at 40% power, covered of course. Flip and repeat, adjusting time and power level depending on how hot it is after the 1 minute. If you are nuking more than 1 burger, be sure to rotate them when you flip so that the edge that was towards the center is now towards the outside. The more fat in the meat, the quicker it will cook. If you want to melt cheese on top, add it the last few seconds.

                                  I routinely take the chill off of cold foods that I want to eat at room temperature by nuking a few minutes at 10% power. Push the food toward the outside of the bowl or plate into a ring, leaving the center open if possible so that all the food warms at the same pace, or stir midway to accomplish the same thing. No need to cover at 10% power.

                                  1. My mom used to buy huge packages of ground beef growing up. She was a single mom with a full time job. A lot of times she knew she wouldn't have time to cook so she'd brown and season her meat with salt and pepper to be added to spaghetti, tacos etc. she'd freeze it and just pull it out in the morning before work. you could portion out enough for tonight and a few hamburgers then try her method. I also recommend making your patties and refrigerating them for a few hours at least. And isn't it annoying that you have to buy at least a pound or go to a butcher?

                                    1. Freeze the cooked burgers for emergency meals. For extra goodness, freeze some cooked bacon with them and then you can have a homemade bacon cheeseburger in two minutes.

                                      1. I grind my own meat so there have been times I've ground a couple of pounds and used it over the week. Just kept it covered in the fridge. I've also used a vacuum sealer to reduce oxidation.

                                        With preground from the store, you will need to use your best judgement

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                          scub, I also grind my own. I started out FoodSavering it but now I just wrap each patty really tightly in plastic wrap and put a bunch of them in gallon zipping bags. Even a couple of months later, they're still red with no freezer burn.

                                        2. So long as the meat is rewrapped completely as much as a week in the fridge shouldn't be a problem. Try not to let the additional patties come up to room temperature if possible, but the 4 hour rule still applies, but if they have been allowed to get warm, i'd tend to cook them at least medium afterward. If you want to keep them longer than a few days (up to about a week) then refreeze them as patties. It helps to at least partially if not totally defrost them before cooking, but in a pinch its not absolutely necessary, although no doubt some hounds will strenuously disagree.

                                          As a single person who doesn't like to waste food I do tend to keep my refrigerator on a very cold setting. Things just last longer that way and the extra cost of electricity vs. the cost of either wasting food or not buying larger portions works out.

                                          1. My wife is of the cook first persuasion, I prefer to refrigerate the patties to save for another meal. (She usually wins.) Somehow, reheated cooked hamburger never tastes as good as fresh cooked.

                                            1. Just stating a matter of facts.

                                              I've defrosted meat.....I've cooked it and refroze it....I've re froze uncooked it due to circumstances.....I eaten the latter without any negative effects. ....I'm still alive to tell you this.