Welcome to another edition of Tip Tuesday where we share a fabulous tip for using your slow cooker to prep meat ahead of time to make meal planning easier!
How To Prep Meat Ahead Of Time In Your Crock-Pot
It’s been quite a awhile since we have done a Tip Tuesday blog post where we share a tip that makes life in the kitchen easier. We hope to do a bit more in the near future. Something to work on for sure.
In this guide I wanted to share how I use my crock-pots (I currently have 4 slow cookers…it’s kind of an obsession!) to make meal planning for the entire month just a tad bit easier by cooking up meat ahead of time.
I use this method to cook up batches of ground beef, ground pork sausage, ground chicken, ground turkey as well as chunks of beef stew meat.
Each month I purchase about 5 pounds of hamburger meat and pork breakfast sausage at either the grocery store or through Zaycon Fresh. These two meats are the ones I always cook each and every month, but depending on what meals I am planning on making that month and what sales are going on I may decide to do ground turkey or chicken or beef stew meat.
To get things ready I get out a crock-pot for each meat I want to cook and plug them in. I place a slow cooker liner in each one (totally optional but I find it easier to drain off the fat from the cooked meat and clean up is just a little bit easier when I use one). I put the meat in the slow cooker and add some chopped onion to the hamburger meat usually (again optional).
I turn the slow cookers to LOW and give the meat a stir with a sturdy spoon every 2 hours or so to help break up the meat into crumbles.
As the meat cooks you will notice quite a bit of fat that cooks off the meat. Sausage usually has quite a bit and so does higher fat content ground beef. Ground turkey and chicken…not so much.
While the meat is cooking is the perfect time to go ahead and get out some quart sized zippered freezer bags and label them with a permanent marker with the type of meat that will be in the bag and the date you cooked it.
Once you meat is all cooked and crumbled (if cooking ground meat) you will need to drain off the fat that has cooked off the meat (if you are using a crock-pot liner all you have to do is gather the liner up into a bag and hold the bag over a bowl and snip the bag with scissors and the cooking liquid will drain out of the bag into the bowl…let that cool until the fat has solidified and then you can dispose of it in the garbage.
Then you simply spoon the cooked meat into your freezer bags, squish the air out, zip them up and then lay them flat in your freezer for storing.
That way whenever I am making crock-pot baked spaghetti, tacos, hamburger soup, chili, sausage and cheese tortellini soup, sausage and rice, or any other meal that uses ground beef or ground sausage, I can just pull it out of the freezer. This tip won’t work for meatloaf type meals (obviously) but nearly all other crock-pot meals involving ground meat you have to cook first. I also use this for my stove top or oven meals.
To defrost the pre-cooked meat I either put in the refrigerator over night, or more typically I open the freezer bag and pop it in the microwave on the defrost setting for a few minutes (so that the microwave doesn’t recook the meat) and then I just use the cooked meat however the recipe specifies.
By spending the time to cook meat ahead of time and have it ready to go for meals for my family I find that I am more apt to steer away from relying on processed meals for my family. If I am in a pinch and need to come up with a meal to feed my family I can easily thaw the meat in a matter on minutes and have dinner on the table quick. With ground breakfast sausage I can throw some crumbles into scrambled eggs, omelets or even breakfast burritos super quick too.
With doing these big batches I also don’t have to worry about trying to cook ground beef before a crock-pot recipe in the morning. I struggle with having enough time to get our meals ready in the morning as needed, and this makes it so much easier for me!
As I mentioned earlier, some months I also like to cook up chunks of beef stew meat ahead of time in the crock-pot too. I use these precook chunks of beef in beef stroganoff, pulled beef BBQ and multi-meat chili. I also rarely purchase hamburger or sausage to store in the freezer raw. That way I’m always using fresh meat and I don’t have stored months old ground meat that we’ve forgotten. Other than for meatloaf, I purchase a large amount once a month and cook all at once.
In all this process take about an hour of your physical time…from cutting onions (if using) to stirring and crumbling your meat every couple hours…super easy and you can be busy doing other things while your crock-pot cooks away.