You probably have a few different types of food that you keep in your freezer at all times. There are things like bags of frozen vegetables that can be a godsend when you forgot to go grocery shopping. You can just quickly defrost them and cook with them, or you can just cook with them directly.
Another type of food that’s super common to have stored in your freezer is ground sausage. Like bags of frozen vegetables, frozen ground sausage is great to store in your freezer because it freezes very well and you can usually buy a lot of it for a low price. Additionally, you can use ground sausage in a wide variety of dishes from pasta to tacos.
But, while it’s very convenient and practical to store in the freezer, what happens if you forget to take it out of the freezer to defrost? Can you cook frozen ground sausage? Yes, you can.
The Quick Answer – Can You Cook Frozen Ground Sausage?
If you don’t have time to defrost frozen ground sausage, don’t fret. You can definitely cook frozen ground sausage. While it will take a bit longer to cook, it’s still faster than having to defrost it before cooking, which can take a particularly long time if it’s a large chunk of sausage.
While you can certainly cook frozen ground sausage, there are some risks that you should be aware of before doing it. But it’s generally only specific cooking methods that pose hazards when it comes to preparing frozen ground beef.
Cooking frozen ground sausage slowly in the oven or a slow cooker exposes it to the risk of spending too much time in the “danger zone,” allowing bacteria to develop.
Other techniques, such as the instant pot, sous vide, and stovetop method, do not pose any hazards if adequate measures are taken and the ground beef is cooked for the appropriate period of time. And remember that even if it’s frozen, you’re still dealing with raw meat, so always wash your hands and any surfaces it comes into contact with.
Do You Have to Thaw Ground Sausage Before Cooking?
No, you don’t have to thaw ground sausage before cooking it. But, if you cook frozen ground sausage, the cooking time can be increased by about 50%.
There are also some ways to cook frozen ground sausage that are better than others (more on that later). But, if you’re doing it in a pan or skillet (which is my preferred way) then you need to consistently break it apart and stir it.
This not only prevents the outer parts from burning while the center of it stays frozen, but it also allows it to defrost and cook faster. Lastly, you should be careful about putting the frozen sausage into hot oil as it will cause significant splattering.
You can then use the frozen sausage that you cooked in a variety of ways. These include beef enchiladas, lasagna soup, beef stroganoff, or even cheeseburger pasta (just to name a few).
How to Defrost Frozen Ground Sausage
For many people, they’ve never asked how to defrost frozen ground sausage because growing up, the usual way was to just take the frozen package of meat out of the freezer and leave it on the countertop overnight or in the morning. And then, after sitting out for the whole night or the whole day, it would be defrosted and ready to cook.
However, we now know, thanks to the USDA, that thawing raw meat at room temperature can encourage the growth of dangerous germs. So it’s necessary to take proper precautions when defrosting ground sausage. Here are three quick and safe ways to defrost frozen ground beef.
In the Fridge
Defrosting frozen ground sausage in the fridge is the best way to do it. This is because you can still use the same “old school” method of just leaving it for the night or day, but only in a safer environment – the fridge. This is because the cold temperature of the fridge prevents the quick growth of bacteria that happens when it’s left at room temperature.
To do it, simply refrigerate the zip-top bag or other packages that contain the frozen meat. Place the meat on a dish so that any moisture from the bag does not leak all over other things. Cook thawed meat within 1 to 2 days when using this approach.
In Cold Water
The next best method that is quicker than the fridge, but not as quick as the microwave is using cold water. By using cold water rather than room temperature or warm water, you can better prevent bacterial growth while it defrosts.
To defrost the ground sausage this way place the bag or container of frozen meat in a sink or large bowl, cover with cold water, and weigh down with anything heavy, such as a pan or large platter.
You should keep the meat immersed in cold water. The meat should defrost in less than 15 minutes and be ready to cook right away. This method works the best when the sausage is stored in freezer-safe bags rather than containers, however.
In the Microwave
Like many foods, defrosting frozen ground sausage is the least preferred way of doing it. While it’s great if you’re short on time, it can have a negative impact on the sausage. If you’ve tried it before, you can probably recall that the outer edges of the sausage will start to cook while the inner parts are still frozen. This is fine when it comes to the safety of the food, but it can have a negative impact on the texture after you’ve cooked it.
To do it this way, place the zip-top bag or freezer-safe container with the frozen ground sausage on a dish in the microwave and thaw for three to four minutes, turning the bag halfway through. Keep an eye on the meat because microwave wattages vary and these timeframes are only guidelines. Because some of the ground beef may have begun to cook during the defrosting process, cook it right away.
How to Cook Frozen Ground Sausage
Before getting into how to cook frozen ground sausage, I will first go into how you shouldn’t cook frozen ground sausage.
How Not to Do It
The first way that you shouldn’t cook frozen ground sausage is in the microwave. While it’s a good, quick way to defrost frozen sausage, you should avoid cooking it in the microwave. The main reason for this is not because of safety concerns, but because the quality will suffer greatly. It should be browned for the best results and you can’t do this when you cook it in the microwave.
The other way you should avoid cooking frozen ground sausage is in a slow cooker. This is because due to the low cooking temperatures, parts of the block of frozen sausage can remain in the “danger zone” for a long period of time, leaving it vulnerable to bacterial growth.
Cooking Frozen Ground Sausage on the Stove
The first of two of my favorite ways to cook frozen sausage is on the stove as I like the browned, and slightly crispy texture that is achieved when it’s cooked like this.
To do it you simply need to place the frozen ground sausage and place it in a skillet in about an inch of water and cook on medium heat. As the water begins to simmer, the outer meat will start to brown. When it does this, start to gradually scrape it off, revealing the uncooked pink layers. Continue doing this until you have fully broken down the frozen block of sausage and it’s all completely browned.
Cooking Frozen Ground Sausage in an Instant Pot
An instant pot is a great tool to use for so many different things. While it may be a bit intimidating due to all of the buttons and settings, once you get the hang of it, it’s super easy to use. And, of course, it’s a great tool to cook frozen ground sausage in. If you’ve never done it before, here is a step-by-step breakdown of how you do it.
- First, put the trivet in the instant pot and fill it with water.
- Next, place the frozen ground beef block on the trivet.
- Set the steam release knob to the Sealing position and close the lid.
- Press the Pressure Cook/Manual button or dial, followed by the +/- button or dial, to select the cooking time in minutes. High tensile strength. It will take many minutes for the pot to come to pressure.
- Cook for 20 minutes for each pound of meat, and 23 minutes per pound of meat. In certain situations, the meat may not cook all the way through, but it will be thawed and ready to sauté if fully done.
- When the cook cycle is done, turn off the heat and leave the pot alone for five minutes (five-minute natural release). Then, to discharge the remaining steam/pressure, turn the steam release knob to the Venting position.
- Open the lid when the pin in the lid drops back down.
- Remove the trivet with the cooked meat and place it on a dish. The meat will remain in the form of a block.
- Break up the meat using a fork or chopper/stirrer tool.
- You may now include the meat into your dish!