Guide for Freezing and Refreezing Meat and Poultry
Freezing meat and poultry is one of my favorite convenient practices that technology has ever offered. Being able to do so allows the prolongation of shelf-life of meat and poultry products. Without this freezing technology, fresh meat and poultry would be considered spoiled in no more than a day at room temperature and in 2-3 days at refrigerated temperature.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Freezing Meat
Let's talk first about the advantages of freezing meat.
It's easy. The easiest way to preserve food is by freezing. You don't really need a lot of things in order to do so as will be discussed below.
It saves money. You can save some money if you buy meat in bulk when on sale. Just freeze them until you need to cook them.
It lengthens shelf-life. As mentioned above, meat easily spoil at room temperature. If maintained at a temperature 0oF or below, frozen products can be kept for a year and can be safely eaten when thawed. The low temperature stops bacterial growth hence suspending spoilage. Freezing meat does not kill bacteria; it just immobilizes them until the meat is taken out of low temperature storage.
The main disadvantage of freezing meat for a long time is that food quality i.e. taste and texture might not be the same as when it was fresh. Both raw and cooked meat and poultry can be successfully frozen. However, raw meat and poultry maintain their quality longer than their cooked counterparts because moisture is lost during cooking.
If you don't have enough space in the freezer, it could be a problem if you buy too much meat. Also, if power goes out for some reason and takes a long time, the food can spoil.
Materials You Need for Freezing Meat and Poultry
Here are some of the materials needed when freezing meat and poultry:
- airtight containers
- moisture-vapor proof freezer bags
- waxed paper
- heavy-duty aluminum foil
- vacuum-seal kit (optional)
- sticker label
- waterproof pen for labeling
Using Ziploc freezer bags ensure that your meat is protected from freezer burn. The tight seal and impermeable plastic material are qualities needed for proper storage of meat in the freezer. An important tip for good freezer storage practice is to make sure there's no air inside the plastic when you seal the Ziploc.
What are the steps in freezing meat and poultry products?
Selection: It is important to select fresh and high-quality meat and poultry for freezing because freezing can't improve the quality of products. Better to freeze raw meat and poultry while still fresh and at its peak quality and not near the end of its shelf-life. When thawed, the former would emerge tasting better than the latter.
Preparation: Fresh meat can be frozen whole or in desired meat cuts. Ground meat can be formed into patties. Separate individual portions of chops, fillets or patties with layers of waxed paper. Poultry should be cleaned and dressed and the giblets separated. Cool hot cooked meat and poultry first before freezing.
Packaging: Properly packaged frozen foods maintain better quality and avoids freezer burn. Freezing meat or poultry in its original packaging as when bought from the supermarket is all right, however this type of wrap is not enough to keep out the air from the meat and quality may diminish over time.
If you do not wish to change the original plastic wrap packaging, for prolonged storage, over-wrap these packages with moisture-vapor proof material. Unopened vacuum packages can be frozen as is.
Packing meat and poultry in meal-sized quantities before freezing has the advantage of separating them for cooking, even while they are still solidly frozen. Moreover, small packages freeze more quickly than big packages which results in better quality when thawed. Wrap the meat or poultry in moisture-vapor proof material or pack in clean airtight containers.
See how this is neatly done in the video below where ground meat is prepared for freezer storage.
Labeling and Storage: Label the content with the contents, weight or serving size and the date of packaging. Freeze the packages at 0oF or below. Ideally, a food 2-inches thick should freeze completely in about 2 hours. Never stack packages to be frozen. Instead, spread them out in one layer on various shelves, stacking them only after frozen solid. Separate unfrozen from frozen food and freeze in small batches to prevent overload of the freezer unit which slows down freezing.
Listed on the chart are the recommended length of time to store meat and poultry products in the freezer. Take note that the recommended time is for quality only. Foods remain safe indefinitely. Do not freeze smoked meats for more than 1 month, the quality deteriorates quickly. Do not freeze stuffed poultry.
Chart for Freezing Meat - How long can you freeze meat?
Thawing instructions: Never thaw foods at room temperature like on top of the kitchen counter. This can make your foods unsafe to eat. Thaw the food in its packaging in the refrigerator, in
cold water, or in the microwave. Plan ahead to thaw food in the refrigerator which make take overnight. Large items like turkey take longer approximately one day for each 5
pounds of weight.
For faster thawing, immerse the frozen food in cold water, keeping the water cold. You may need to change the water every 30 minutes. After thawing, cook immediately. If you defrost using a microwave, plan to cook the food immediately also because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Microbial growth also begins which causes the food to spoil.
Practical Tips in Freezing Meat
Is it safe to refreeze meat and poultry?
Though it is not ideal to refreeze thawed food because there will be further loss of quality, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service says that it is safe to refreeze thawed meat without cooking if it was thawed in the refrigerator. Never refreeze thawed food outside the refrigerator. It is still best to cook the food you have defrosted, so better plan what you are cooking. After cooking raw meat which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the meat again.
Helpful Reading Resources
- Freezing Cooked Foods at Home - Why and How
Freezing foods is not only a convenient way to have dinners ready on the table fast but it's also safe if done the right way. Find out in this hub how you can prepare frozen foods at home.
- Blanching and Freezing Vegetables - How-to-Guide
There are many vegetables that can be frozen but there are others that are not to be frozen. Moreover, storing vegetables in the freezer require a prior step called blanching. This hub will give a step-by-step guide on how to blanch and freeze vegeta
- Freezing Guide for Cheese, Butter and Yogurt
This hub is a simple guide on the proper way of freezing cheese, butter and yogurt. It also gives some notes on how to thaw them the right way.