I brown hamburger in my crockpot. It’s so easy and so much cleaner than having grease popping all over my stove. I brown several pounds at a time and then package it up for the freezer. It is so handy to reach into the freezer for some already browned hamburger for quick tacos or spaghetti sauce or any of the one thousand other things you can do with browned hamburger.
Buy lean hamburger in bulk when it’s on sale or in the mark down bin – I recently bought 5 pounds 90% lean ground beef marked half price from my supermarket’s meat clearance section. I could have cooked it all at once, but I like to stretch it by adding other meats to it. I’ve even been known to hide vegan meat substitutes in it. (No, we are not vegan, but my husband likes vegan options to help control his cholesterol.)
Buy other ground meats when they are on sale – I regularly buy ground pork and ground chicken or turkey. They are usually cheaper than ground beef, and when I mix them with ground beef for browning, I am reducing the overall cost of my browned meat batches. I’m also making the ground chicken or turkey taste so much better! Buy country sausage when you see it on sale also. My family loves the subtle flavor boost I get when I’ve added a pound or two of country sausage to my browning mix. (I don’t do this often – remember, my husband watches his cholesterol!)
Start your crockpot early in the day – you want the meat cooked well done, especially if you are mixing meat from different animals and sources. You want to kill any bacteria that might be present to avoid cross contamination!
Don’t worry about defrosting anything – toss the frozen chunks into the crockpot, set it on high, and go on about your business. If you have defrosted or fresh ground meat that you want to include in your batch, add it later.
Leave your crock pot alone for a good while. Maybe go do some shopping. When you come back, after at least a couple of hours, take your handy dandy meat masher and break it all up. If you’ve left the crock pot for a while, you may have to work a little bit at breaking up the meat that has cooked together. It’s good exercise. If you don’t have a meat masher, you could probably use a potato masher, but if all you have is a fork, I think you will probably buy a meat masher before you try this again.
Now’s the time to add any fresh or defrosted meat. If you want to season it (I often add taco seasoning) now is also a good time to add seasoning. Remember to adjust the amount of seasoning you are using for the amount of meat you are cooking. I had 5.5 pounds of meat in my crockpot this time, so I added 5 taco seasoning packets – one for each pound. Then, put the lid back on the crockpot, make sure it is still set on high, and leave it alone again. Go to the movies maybe.
Come back and give it a good mashing every couple hours or so until it’s thoroughly cooked and broken up the way you like it. If you are using lean meats (like I usually do) you will have little or no fat to drain off. If you have added sausage, like I did this time, you will have to drain the fat off (another reason I don’t do this very often!) I transfer the ground meat to a large sieve a little at a time and press on it with a large spoon to force the fat to drain from it. Once all the meat is out of the crockpot and drained, I wipe out the crockpot and transfer the meat back into the crockpot to keep it hot if I’m serving it for dinner that night or transfer it directly to packages for freezing.
That’s it! I browned enough meat for several meals, including taco salads that night, without having to stand over a stove and with minimal mess. My family raved about how delicious it was!
What’s your quick easy kitchen trick?
Also, what would you use pre-browned hamburger in for dinner tonight, if you had some in your freezer?