Making Meatloaf with Frozen Ground Beef: Tips and Tricks

Meatloaf is a classic comfort food that never goes out of style. This savory dish made from a mixture of ground beef spices, vegetables eggs, and breadcrumbs bakes up into a hearty, sliceable loaf. It’s a great way to use up ground beef and make a meal that feeds the whole family. But can you make meatloaf if the beef is frozen?

The answer is yes, you can definitely make meatloaf with frozen ground beef. With some simple preparation strategies, frozen beef can be easily incorporated into meatloaf recipes with great results. Read on for tips on thawing, handling, and cooking frozen beef for meatloaf.

Can You Use Frozen Ground Beef for Meatloaf?

Frozen ground beef works perfectly fine for making meatloaf. In fact, using frozen meat can be advantageous

  • Saves time – No need to plan ahead and thaw beef in the refrigerator which can take over 24 hours Frozen meat is ready to go

  • Prevents waste – Freezing ground beef allows you to buy in bulk when on sale, preventing spoilage before use.

  • Extends shelf life – Frozen ground beef maintains quality and freshness much longer than refrigerated. It stays safe indefinitely when frozen at 0°F or below.

  • Adds convenience – Frozen beef can be easily incorporated into recipes like meatloaf with just a few tweaks.

As long as frozen beef is handled safely, it can be substituted evenly in place of fresh or thawed beef when making meatloaf.

Tips for Making Meatloaf with Frozen Ground Beef

Follow these tips and tricks for best results when using frozen beef for your meatloaf:

1. Select the Right Type of Beef

Choose ground beef labeled at least 80% lean. Fattier blends like 70% lean can become greasy during baking. Leaner beef like 90% or 93% lean may become dried out. The 80% lean variety provides the right balance of fat and moisture for great texture.

2. Partially Thaw in the Refrigerator

Take frozen beef from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator 8-12 hours before making meatloaf. This allows it to thaw slightly for easier mixing and handling. Beef should still be very cold but malleable enough to incorporate spices and binders.

3. Use a Stand Mixer for Mixing

Partially frozen beef can be difficult to properly integrate with other ingredients by hand. Use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to ensure even blending of seasonings and evenly distributed texture.

4. Add Extra Egg and Breadcrumbs

Frozen beef releases moisture as it thaws during baking. Compensate by increasing the amount of breadcrumbs and eggs called for in the recipe by about 20%. The extra binders will help retain the moisture.

5. Allow Extra Baking Time

Figure the meatloaf will need to bake about 50% longer than the recipe time when using frozen beef. Check for doneness with a meat thermometer to ensure the center reaches 160°F. The extended time allows the core to fully thaw.

6. Bake at a Slightly Higher Temperature

For best results, bake frozen meatloaf at 375°F rather than 350°F. The higher heat helps the exterior develop into a nice browned crust before the inside overcooks.

7. Preheat the Pan

Place the loaf pan or baking sheet in the oven as it preheats. The hot pan helps form a nice outer crust quickly to seal in juices.

8. Finishing Touches

If desired, glaze or top the meatloaf about 15 minutes before the expected end of baking time. This allows any glaze to caramelize and adhere nicely.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Making Meatloaf with Frozen Ground Beef

Here is an easy step-by-step method:


  • 1 1⁄2 pounds frozen 80% lean ground beef
  • 3⁄4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1⁄2 cup minced onion
  • 1⁄2 cup shredded carrot
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1⁄4 cup ketchup, divided
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder


  1. Place frozen beef in refrigerator 8-12 hours prior to pre-thaw. Remove from fridge 1 hour before cooking.

  2. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place loaf pan in oven while it heats.

  3. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat together the partially thawed beef, panko, onion, carrot, eggs, 2 tablespoons ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and garlic powder until just combined. Do not overmix.

  4. Transfer beef mixture to preheated loaf pan and shape into an oval loaf.

  5. Bake for 60-70 minutes until meatloaf reaches 160°F in center.

  6. Mix remaining 2 tablespoons ketchup with 1 teaspoon water. Brush glaze over top of meatloaf and bake 5 minutes more.

  7. Remove meatloaf from oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing to serve.

And that’s all there is to it! With this easy technique, you can whip up tasty homemade meatloaf using frozen ground beef.

Helpful Tips for Making the Best Meatloaf

Beyond using frozen beef, here are some other helpful tips for making moist, flavorful meatloaf:

  • Combine meats – Use half beef and half pork or veal for added moisture and flavor.

  • Go easy on mixing – Overworking the meat can lead to a dense, rubbery texture.

  • Add cream cheese – Softened cream cheese makes meatloaf extra moist and tender.

  • Use boneless chicken – Ground chicken breast meat produces a lighter, healthier meatloaf.

  • Layer it up – Create a lined pattern in the loaf pan with beef and a contrasting filler like cooked spinach for a striped effect.

  • Bacon weave – Weave bacon slices into a mat and wrap it around the loaf before baking for built-in basting and crunchy texture.

  • Chill it – Refrigerating the meatloaf for 1-2 hours before baking helps it hold its shape better.

  • Glaze generously – Brush meatloaf with plenty of boldly flavored glazes like ketchup, barbecue sauce, plum sauce, or honey mustard.

  • Ventilate baking – Elevate meatloaf on a rack in the pan so airflow can circulate underneath, keeping the bottom from getting soggy.

Storing and Freezing Leftover Meatloaf

Like any meat dish, leftover meatloaf should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking. Store tightly wrapped for 3-4 days. Freeze extra meatloaf up to 2-3 months for longer storage.

To freeze, let cool completely then wrap tightly in plastic wrap followed by foil. This prevents freezer burn. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

Reheat leftovers in the oven or microwave until piping hot, at least 165°F. Slices of meatloaf can also be quickly pan fried in butter or olive oil for a crispy crust. Meatloaf makes a perfect quick sandwich filling or weeknight pie topping too.

With proper handling and storage, meatloaf made with frozen ground beef will retain optimum quality and flavor for multiple meals. Adjust seasonings as desired when reheating to refresh the taste.

Is It Safe to Refreeze Thawed Ground Beef?

If you end up thawing more ground beef than you can use up at one time, you can safely refreeze it. However, for best quality, try to avoid refreezing raw beef more than once. Here are some tips:

  • Refreeze beef while it is still cold, before bacteria have time to multiply. Cook beef within 1-2 days of initial thawing if possible.

  • Portion beef into smaller quantities with minimal surface area to freeze quickly and minimize ice crystal formation which affects texture.

  • Prevent freezer burn by sealing beef in an airtight freezer bag or wrap tightly with plastic and foil.

  • Use refrozen beef soon, within 2-3 months, for peak flavor and juiciness. It may become slightly drier with multiple freezes.

  • Cook beef thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160°F after refreezing to eliminate any bacteria.

  • If in doubt, remember the motto: “When in doubt, throw it out!” Discard beef with any off colors or odors.

With proper precautions, freezing and refreezing ground beef can be done safely. Handled carefully, even thawed and refrozen beef retains enough moisture and tenderness to make wonderfully tasty meatloaf.

Common Questions About Making Meatloaf with Frozen Beef

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Can you bake meatloaf from frozen?

Yes, frozen raw meatloaf can go straight into the oven without thawing first. It will just take about 50% longer to bake than fresh meatloaf.

Can I mix meatloaf ingredients then refreeze?

It’s not recommended to mix and refreeze meatloaf raw. Thawed ground beef should only be refrozen once, and mixing it can lead to poorer texture.

Should meatloaf be completely thawed before reheating?

For food safety, leftovers should be fully thawed before reheating. Microwave defrosting works well for meatloaf slices. Defrost in the refrigerator if reheating in the oven.

What internal temp should cooked meatloaf reach?

Cook meatloaf to an internal temperature of 160°F as measured by a meat thermometer for safety and doneness. Ground meats require thorough cooking to destroy any bacteria.

Can meatloaf be undercooked in the middle?

No, fully cooking meatloaf through to 160°F is vital. Any pink areas or undercooked spots can harbor dangerous bacteria and pose food poisoning risks. Err on the side of overdone when uncertain.

The Takeaway

Meatloaf can be easily made using frozen ground beef with similar results as fresh meat. Allow the beef to thaw partially in the fridge overnight, then mix gently and bake at a slightly higher temperature with a few recipe tweaks. Handled safely and cooked thoroughly, frozen beef produces moist, flavorful homemade meatloaf. The convenience of keeping ground beef frozen allows cooks to whip up this comforting dish anytime.

Make Ahead Meatloaf | Freezer Prep


Can you use frozen beef for meatloaf?

Meatloaf can be made with any ground meat, or combination or ground meats, and straight from the freezer, they are perfect for an easy weeknight dinner.

Is it safe to cook frozen ground beef without thawing?

It’s perfectly safe to cook ground beef when it is frozen. The key to success is to adjust your cooking technique and make sure that the food is cooked all the way through. If you’re a little unsure on how to cook frozen ground beef then you’ve come to the right place.

How do you defrost meat for meatloaf?

“For safe thawing, the food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag,” Brigman says. Ground beef can be defrosted in cold water in two ways: Run water constantly over the bag of protein until thawed, or place the bag of ground beef in a bowl full of cold tap water and ensure it is completely submerged.

Do I need to thaw meatloaf before baking?

Baking Frozen Meatloaf If you didn’t have the forethought to thaw it, simply use the temperature called for in the recipe but bake the meatloaf 1 1/2 to 2 times longer than directed. Always check for doneness with a meat thermometer—it should read 160 F for beef meatloaf and 165 F for poultry meatloaf.

How do you make freezer meatloaf?

This 6-Ingredient Freezer Meatloaf is quick and easy! Mix all ingredients in mixing bowl. I like to use my hands to make sure everything gets mixed well. Place meatloaf mixture into a greased loaf pan and form into a smooth loaf shape. If baking now, top with extra ketchup and bake at 350 for 1 hour or until the internal temperature reads 155 F.

Can you freeze Meatloaf before baking?

Prepare the meatloaf, put it in a loaf pan, and top with glaze according to the recipe directions. Cover the pan and freeze. Place the frozen meatloaf in the refrigerator to thaw about 24 hours before you want to bake it. Then, uncover it and let it come to room temperature as you’re preheating the oven.

Can you cook a meatloaf in a loaf pan?

Pour the meat mixture into a loaf pan. Spread it into a flat even layer. Add ketchup, brown sugar, and red wine vinegar to a bowl. Whisk until combined. Pour the glaze over the meatloaf. Bake it! Let it cool before slicing. Absolutely! Just cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you’re ready for it.

Can you freeze meatloaf & ketchup?

Place meatloaf mixture into a greased loaf pan and form into a smooth loaf shape. If baking now, top with extra ketchup and bake at 350 for 1 hour or until the internal temperature reads 155 F. If freezing for later, wrap with plastic wrap and heavy duty foil, then label with the date and cooking instructions.

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