beef beef
March 2, 2011 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Have I ruined my organic beef?

I've got a huge craving for ground beef, and just ran to the grocery store and bought a pound of expensive, organic, ground beef.
Being a former vegetarian, I'm unfamiliar with cooking beef. I wanted it thawed fast and don't have a microwave, so I put it in a sink of HOT water.
THen I started reading up online, and apparently hot water is a big no-no, can cause bacterial growth...
It sat in hot water for about 8 or 10 minutes, and is now in a cold water bath.
Won't cooking it rid it of any bacteria?
I really want spaghetti! Now! How can I save my beef?
posted by whalebreath to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Also, after the short hot water bath, the outside of the package of beef (the beef on the periphery) became soft, but not cooked in any way. Should I just throw the whole thing into a pan and hope it defrosts like that? Low or medium or high heat?
posted by whalebreath at 9:26 AM on March 2, 2011

Your beef is fine. Fiiiiine. Go ahead and eat it, you have no reason to be worried.

In the future, thaw it in room-temp water. That way it won't pre-cook any of the meat.
posted by phunniemee at 9:26 AM on March 2, 2011

You're fine. It was only in the hot water for 10 minutes. Do a cold-water bath* to defrost it completely. You could just cook it but you'll have to be really patient and crumble it as you go. I prefer the water bath, but perhaps that's just me.

*it should be running water, but if you don't want to do that, just change the water every half-hour or so til it's defrosted.
posted by cooker girl at 9:28 AM on March 2, 2011

Oh, gosh, I used to let beef thaw on the counter for hours before cooking it up. Nothing bad ever happened.
posted by something something at 9:35 AM on March 2, 2011

You're fine. I mean, I'm probably more cavalier about food safety than anyone else on AskMe, but you couldn't get a lot of bacterial growth out of a specifically cultured petri dish at optimal temperatures after 10 minutes. There's no way your beef is ruined unless it was already ruined before you bought it.
posted by KathrynT at 9:37 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Agreed; it's fine. The USDA rule of thumb is that bacteria grows fastest when food is between 40F and 140F, but the meat would be safe even if it were in that range for an hour or more.

If you can cut the frozen meat into smaller chunks with a big chef's knife or something similar, it will thaw faster. Or, just throw the smaller chunks into a skillet on low-med heat and break them up as they cook, like cooker girl suggested.
posted by jon1270 at 9:42 AM on March 2, 2011

You're going to cook the meat, right? You're fine.
posted by santaliqueur at 9:46 AM on March 2, 2011

Also, presumably you're going to be cooking this ground beef all the way - no pink. It will be fine.
posted by mskyle at 9:46 AM on March 2, 2011

In general, meat needs to be kept under 4 degrees C or over about 70 C (depending on the product) to be safe.

But, it can be kept at the wrong temperature for 2-4 hours (total) before it becomes unsafe.

Once it is unsafe, heating it through doesn't help, because it's the toxins produced by the bacteria that do the damage and they are not destroyed by heat.

So, if you were going to leave your meat to defrost all day, it would be very important to keep it below 4 degrees. Defrosting it at a dubious temperature for 8-10 minutes, on the other hand, is not a problem. Some of it is probably going to sit on your plate for that long while you eat it!

The real problem with your hot water idea is that it won't speed things up very much, but the outside will start to cook through while the inside is still frozen, so you might have some overcooked bits once it's done.
posted by emilyw at 9:47 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

In general, meat needs to be kept under 4 degrees C or over about 70 C (depending on the product) to be safe.

. . . for it to be GUARANTEED to be safe.

As you leave those conditions, you're no longer guaranteed to be safe. The longer and farther you stray from those conditions, the more likely you are to have dangerous levels of bacterial growth. But even defrosting a roast on the counter overnight won't mean certain e. coli or anything, it might just mean that the risk is higher than is worth it.
posted by KathrynT at 10:01 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

n-th that it's highly unlikely that 10 minutes in a hot bath is going to make any difference.

Unless you are following some really complicated recipe, I often toss a frozen brick of ground beef in and brown it around the sides, put in the rest of my sauce ingredients and stir it up while shaving off the cooked parts into the sauce with a spoon while the whole business heats up.
posted by advicepig at 10:17 AM on March 2, 2011

Thanks everybody I am presently eating spaghetti! I let it thaw in the cold water bath while I pre-chopped everything, grated cheese...did whatever I could.
Then, for the part that was still frozen, I just tried to make it into as small of pieces as possible and chipped away at the brown exteriors as they cooked.
How glad I am to not be a vegetarian anymore!
posted by whalebreath at 10:32 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

The reason the meat got soft is because you approached the melting temperature of the fat in the beef. Eat it up.

FYI, and completely counter to anything that makes sense, boiling ground beef is a GREAT way to go from frozen-cooked for things like spaghetti meat sauce or tacos. You'd think it would be awful, but it's really very good...and easy...and FAST!
posted by TomMelee at 12:08 PM on March 2, 2011

"How glad I am to not be a vegetarian anymore!"

posted by carlh at 5:30 PM on March 2, 2011

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