Tips for Freezing Meat
Freezing meat is a great way to save money and plan for meals, especially when you buy in bulk. However, did you know that how you freeze it may affect quality? Here is a guide with some best practices on freezing and defrosting to help extend the shelf life, preserve the quality, and prevent bacteria - so you can get the most out of your meat!
How to Freeze Meat
Pre-portioning your meat is optional but will simplify the freezing process and is convenient for thawing and preparing it into a meal once ready to pull it out of the freezer. Consider dividing your meat into smaller portions of 1-2 servings. Next, the key to keeping it fresh in the freezer is wrapping and storing it properly rather than just throwing it in. Storing your meat right can ensure that the quality and flavor of the cut are maintained. Meat from a butcher is often ready to freeze, with wax lining on the inside of the packaging to prevent ice crystals, meaning you can freeze it as is. If packaging meat yourself, you should double-wrap it, and for this, you can use a few items you probably already have in your kitchen. Wrap meat using a combination of plastic wrap with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Next, use a vacuum sealer or a freezer paper and bag to limit air exposure as much as possible. (Any zip-lock bag will do, but when shopping, look for the ones specified for freezing use). Once done preparing and packaging your meat, you can use a permanent marker to label your bags with the type of meat and date of purchase to track the expiration.
How Long Can You Freeze Meat?
When deciding to freeze meat, note that the sooner, the better. If you know you’re going to freeze it, don’t wait. How long meat can last in the freezer will depend on several factors, including the type of meat and whether or not it’s raw or cooked. In general, it’s better to freeze raw meat because cooked meat won’t last as long. Raw meat lasts in the freezer for 12 months, whereas cooked meat will last up to 3 months. It’s also important to note that processed meats, whether frozen or cooked, such as sausage and ground beef, are freshest in 1-2 months. Tracking the expiration date will be easy since you’ve already labeled your frozen meat!
Safely Defrosting Meat
Planning meals will help in this step, as safely defrosting meat takes a little forethought. The best ways to defrost meat are by defrosting it in the fridge overnight or letting it sit in cold water. It’s best to avoid leaving your frozen meat on the counter, as room temperatures will cause bacteria to spread. Instead, pull the meat from the freezer the night before, and once thawed, it’ll last for another 1-2 days, while red meat will last 3-5 days more. If you forget to put the frozen meat into the fridge - don’t worry! To use the cold bath method, put the frozen meat into a zip lock bag, pinch out any air, and place it in a bowl of cold water. Defrost time will depend on how large the cut is, with smaller batches of meat typically taking up to an hour and larger ones taking 2-3.