Freezing meat is a great way to preserve it and prevent the meat from spoiling. Meat stored in a refrigerator will be fine for a few days, but not much longer. The same meat stored in a freezer is safe to eat for several months or more.
If you enjoy eating meat, it’s important to adhere to safety guidelines for freezing meat. Improper freezing can impact the quality of the joint and potentially cause it to spoil, which is a health and safety issue.
Read on for a guide to the safe storage of meat in a freezer.
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Safe Versus Good to Eat
While freezing meat will preserve it indefinitely, it doesn’t mean it will taste as good after a few months of being stored at -18 degrees Celsius. Meat can still go bad in the freezer, but the process of freezing it pushes bacteria into a dormant phase and prevents the growth of any nasty microorganisms.
It also slows enzyme action down, which stops the food from spoiling. However, bacteria are not killed, so meat must be handled correctly at all stages of the freezing process.
The longer meat remains frozen, the higher the likelihood the quality will be impaired.
Chicken and Turkey
Poultry is the most popular type of meat in the US and around 48 kilos is consumed per capita. Chicken is the main sub-set of poultry, and Americans love to eat chicken; it’s also a key ingredient in takeout food such as KFC.
Raw chicken can be frozen and will keep very well in the freezer. A whole chicken can be kept in the freezer for up to 12 months without spoiling. Cutting a whole chicken into parts reduces the length of time you can store it in the freezer – make sure you eat the meat within nine months.
If you have a turkey saved for Thanksgiving, it will be fine for up to 12 months.
Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal, and Venison
Beef, veal, and pork are less popular than poultry, but Americans still eat around 24 kilos per capita. Furthermore, although Americans eat less beef compared to poultry, it is the best-selling meat in the US, and sales are growing year on year.
A roasting joint of beef, pork, lamb, veal, or venison will last between four and 12 months in the freezer, but it is best to eat it sooner rather than later if you want to enjoy it at its best. Steaks are good for 6-12 months in the freezer.
Sausages made from pork, beef, or other red meat don’t last as long in the freezer. You can safely store raw sausage for up to two months, but it is a good idea to cook it soon after. Bacon is safe in the freezer for around four weeks.
Cooked red meat can’t be stored in the freezer for as long as raw meat. If you have some meat leftover from a Sunday roast, you can safely freeze it for up to three months. Thereafter, defrost it and use it up. It’s also safe to store meat stews for up to three months.
Cooked chicken pieces are OK in the freezer for up to four months. Chicken nuggets or patties can’t be stored for as long; only freeze these for between one and three months.
Experts say it is safe to store shop-bought meat in its original packaging for up to two months. If you plan to store the meat for longer, or you want to freeze some freshly butchered meat, wrap it tightly in foil or plastic wrap first.
Meat must be stored at a temperature of minus 18 degrees Celsius or below. At this temperature, microbial and bacterial growth are inhibited. The freezer’s temperature must remain consistent.
If you have an older freezer that doesn’t have a digital display, it is a good idea to buy a freezer alarm. This will warn you if the temperature of your freezer rises about the recommended -18 degrees Celsius. If you are interested in purchasing a freezer alarm, WeatherStationAdvisor has a guide to the best ones on the market.
Failing to monitor the temperature of your freezer could have disastrous results. If food is not stored correctly, it will soon begin to spoil. This might not be too much of an issue if you only have a few chicken patties in there but imagine how costly it would be if you lost an entire freezer’s worth of expensive fillet steak!
Raw meat can be safely refrozen, but only if it has been cooked first. Refreezing fresh meat will lead to a loss of quality, as ice crystals form and change the texture and flavor of the meat. This is why it is important to check whether shop-bought fresh meat has been previously frozen – the guidelines will normally indicate whether meat is suitable for home freezing.
Freezing meat is a good way to preserve it for longer, but make sure you follow the guidelines above!