A wonderful method to save money, cut down on grocery shop excursions, and ensure you always have food is to buy meat in bulk and load up the freezer. Imagine your freezer as your savings account, where you can lay aside “funds” (i.e., food) for an unexpected expense. The items you intend to use right away are kept in the fridge, which symbolizes your bank account.
When you want to freeze meat, there are several things you should know. You don’t want to put raw meat into the freezer if it can be cooked. There are also some things you can do to ensure that your food stays fresh for as long as possible.
How Long can you Store Meat in the Freezer?
Generally speaking, a piece of meat will last longer the less processed it has been. In contrast, cured and cooked beef hot dogs should only be frozen for one to two months. A complete, raw chicken can therefore be stored in the freezer for up to a year.
Here is a quick list of popular raw meats and how long they will keep fresh in the freezer.
Month of bacon
- 1-2 months for sausage (pork, beef, chicken, and turkey).
- 6–12 months for steaks
- Chops of pork: 4-6 months
- 4-12 months for roast or butt pork
- Whole turkey or chicken – one year
- Cut turkey or chicken – nine months
- Pork, turkey, or ground beef – 3 to 4 months
There are other options besides just freezing raw meat! To extend the life of cooked beef, it can also be frozen.
For instance, you may prepare a sizable roast and freeze half for later use. Remember that since it hasn’t yet lost moisture during cooking, raw frozen meat retains a tender texture for longer than cooked frozen meat.
The following are some suggested freezing intervals for cooked meat:
- Beef or pork 1-2 months for hot dogs
- Ham whole, 1-2 months
- 1-2 months for a half ham
- Chicken: approximately four months
- 2-3 months for beef and pork
As you can see, there are no firm guidelines; rather, there is a range that can be affected by the meat’s freshness at the time of freezing and the way it is packaged. Always mark and date your frozen meals to ensure that you aren’t storing food in the freezer for an excessive amount of time!
How do I Properly Freeze Meat?
First, ensure that all goods, including meat, are frozen at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature at which food is safe is this. Meat can be frozen in its original packaging, but the FDA advises switching to heavy-duty packagings such as foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper if you want to store it in your freezer for more than two months. Protein can also be sealed within an airtight plastic bag. Use one of our top-rated, finest vacuum sealers to maintain freshness.
Storage Standards for Freezers
How long does it take for frozen meats to lose their flavor before it is “too long”?
Most raw beef cuts can be frozen for several months without losing quality.
Steaks can be kept frozen for 6 to 12 months and cuts like roasts for anywhere between 4 and 12 months, according to the FDATrusted Source. For no more than three to four months, ground beef should be kept frozen.
Those hearty leftovers from beef can be securely frozen after cooking. However, the FDA advises only keeping these frozen for two to three months. Again, quality is the only issue here. These recommendations do not account for how long meat can be stored in the freezer. However, at that point, you might start to compromise on quality.
The good news is that frozen poultry can last up to one year without significantly degrading in quality if you want to freeze a complete chicken or turkey. According to the FDA, chicken parts, including thighs, breasts, and wings, can be stored for up to nine months with no problems, while giblets should only be kept for three to four months. Additionally, it is usually best to keep ground chicken for no more than three to four months.
Similar to beef, there are freezer recommendations for raw pork. Roasts can be frozen for four to twelve months. For four to six months, chops are safe to store in the freezer.
To preserve quality, the FDATrusted Source advises only keeping cooked pig slices frozen for two to three months.
The FDA advises you only to freeze smoked and processed pig products, including ham, hot dogs, bacon, and lunch meats, for one to two months.
The advice on freezing seafood is a little more intricate. Cod and other lean fish can be frozen for six to eight months. Salmon and other fatty fish should only be frozen for two to three months.
Scallops and other seafood, such as shrimp, can be frozen for three to six months. Fish that has been cooked should only be stored frozen for four to six months. Furthermore, smoked salmon should only be frozen for two months before losing flavor.
How should Frozen Meat be Safely Thawed?
It’s never a good idea to thaw meat on the kitchen counter. Dangerous bacteria can develop on meat left at room temperature for longer than two hours (or one hour in the summer).
Meat can be safely thawed in the refrigerator, in cold water, or the microwave, in that order.
Frozen Meat Thawing in the Refrigerator
The safest and slowest method of defrosting frozen meat is this one. An overnight thaw is typically sufficient for minor objects. For every five pounds of beef in a large piece, allow one day for thawing.
Frozen Meat Thawing in Cold Water
Compared to the refrigerator, thawing meat in cold water is quicker because the chilly temperature inhibits bacterial growth. Put your meal in a leak-proof container and completely submerge it in cold water. To ensure the water stays cold during the thawing process, change it every 30 minutes.
Frozen Meat Being Thawed in a Microwave
The quickest way to thaw frozen meat is in the microwave, however, this approach is best used for medium-sized chunks, including thick steaks and chicken pieces. Small foods like thin pork chops might begin to cook on the defrost setting of the microwave. Large portions of meat can start to cook in some places while remaining frozen in others since the microwave doesn’t always defrost uniformly.
Take the meat out of the package and put it on a plate or microwave-safe surface to utilize this technique. Follow your microwave’s weight-based defrosting guidelines, and check on the progress frequently. Turn the meat as needed to achieve even thawing.
Cook as soon as the food has defrosted.
When should I Freeze Meat After Keeping it Refrigerated?
It’s safe to freeze meat that has been kept in the refrigerator IF:
It is past the “use by” or “freeze by” date on the packaging, and it has been maintained in a refrigerator at or below 40°F.
Make sure to freeze the item within 1 to 2 days for ground meat or poultry or 3 to 4 days for steaks, chops, or roasts if it doesn’t have a “use by” or “freeze by” date. For a complete list of refrigerator and freezer storage times, consult the FDA food storage chart.
Can I Put Something in the Refrigerator Instead if the Package Says to “Keep Frozen”?
It’s better to follow the directions on your food container. This is done partly for reheating and partly for food safety concerns. Cooking instructions for foods with the phrase “keep frozen” frequently begin with frozen food.
You can defrost food in the refrigerator if the packaging directs you to do so before cooking.
Does Meat Spoil in the Freezer?
Frozen meat does it “go bad”? The USDA states frozen meat stored at 0°F or lower will always be considered safe to eat. The low temperature inhibits the growth of germs and microbes like bacteria and mold. But it doesn’t imply the flavor will last.
To find out if your frozen meals are still edible, look for the following symptoms.
- The item has a freezer burn.
- There is a texture modification.
- It has an odd odor.
- You are unable to recall when you froze it.
- It is resting in an iced-over puddle.
- The package is torn.
Food Storage Mistakes to Avoid
When storing meat in the freezer, there are certain things you must keep in mind. Proper storage can protect you from spoilage and help preserve the quality of your food. These tips will ensure you get the most value from your food, and they can also prevent foodborne illnesses.
A simple rule of thumb is to leave enough room around each item so that it can cool to its proper temperature. Air exposure is the enemy of frozen food, so you’ll want to avoid it as much as possible.
Meat should be separated from fruits and vegetables and from cooked food. This will prevent the introduction of bacteria and pathogens. It also helps prevent cross-contamination.
One of the most important storage tricks is to use a vacuum-sealed bag. These bags are standard for frozen food. They keep harmful bacteria out, and they help you follow your meat’s expiration date.
Some of the most common mistakes in food storage are not taking advantage of this. Light and temperature can cause your food to spoil, and they can even change its taste. You should keep your food out of the fridge’s door and out of direct sunlight.
Another tip is to freeze your food in a glass container with a good seal. This will prevent the liquid from leaking, and it will also prevent mold from growing.
Families can save money on groceries by keeping a well-stocked freezer because they can buy goods when they are on sale or in bulk, which typically offers the greatest price per pound. Make it a practice to check the freezer before creating your shopping list or meal to use up what you have before you run the risk of freezer burn.
Meat may be stored and kept from becoming worse by freezing. The recommended storage conditions are based on the quality and flavor of the meat itself because fresh meat may theoretically be kept indefinitely if stored at the proper temperature.
Additionally, taking safety steps lowers the likelihood of spoiling. Storage timeframes can vary since certain freezers may not be able to maintain a temperature that is consistently low enough.
People should avoid any meat that looks or smells off, even after following the proper safety and storage protocols.