In fact, buying meat in bulk and freezing it is a smart way to keep your pantry stocked and your wallet happy. But before you get too excited about the freezer strategy, you must understand how long you can keep meat in the freezer.
In general, most uncooked cuts of meat can be kept in the freezer for 4 months to 1 year depending on the type. So, if you want to delve into the details surrounding how long different types of meat can be kept in the freezer before becoming a food safety hazard, read on.
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How Long Can You Keep Meat in the Freezer?
Frozen meat which has been kept constantly frozen at 0°F is considered safe to consume indefinitely. However, the flavor and quality of the meat will start to degrade after a certain period of time. So, how long can you keep meat in the freezer?
The FoodSafty recommends that you can keep most uncooked cuts of meat in the freezer for 4 months to 1 year. For speciﬁc types of meat, here is a handy guide:
|Types of Meat (Uncooked)||in the Freezer (Months)|
|Beef/ Pork/ Lamb/ Veal||4 to 12 months|
|Poultry (Turkeys and Chicken)||1 year|
|Parts of Poultry (Breasts, thighs,…)||9 months|
|Ground meat||3 to 4 months|
|Fish and shellfish||2 to 3 months|
How about cooked meat? Well, cooked meat can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months before its quality starts to decline. Look at the below chart as a reference:
|Types of Meat (Cooked)||in the Freezer (Months)|
|Beef/ Pork/ Lamb/ Veal||2 to 3 months|
|Ground meat||2 to 3 months|
|Fish and Shellfish||2 to 3 months|
How to Keep Meat in the Freezer?
To ensure that your meat is kept in safe and optimum condition, it’s important to store them properly. Here are some tips to follow when keeping meat in the freezer:
1. Make sure that you keep the meat in the freezer set at 0°F or below.
2. Use air-tight and moisture-proof containers such as vacuum-sealed bags, aluminum foil or zip-top bags to store the meat in order to prevent freezer burn.
3. Label the package with the name of the meat, date of storage and expiration date so that you can easily keep track of them.
4. Refrain from refreezing already-thawed meat as this can lead to bacterial contamination.
Following these tips can help you keep your meat in the freezer for a long time and still enjoy it fresh.
How to Thaw Frozen Meat?
Frozen meat is only safe to consume when it’s properly thawed. This process not only needs to be done safely but also quickly in order to minimize bacterial growth. Here are some tips on how you can safely thaw frozen meat:
- Thawing in the Refrigerator – Place the meat in a plate or container and set it in the refrigerator overnight. The time needed for thawing will depend on the size of your piece of meat.
- Thawing in Cold Water – Place the meat in a plastic bag and submerge it in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes to keep it chilled. This method is faster than thawing in the refrigerator.
- Thawing in a Microwave – Place the meat on a microwave-safe plate and set the microwave for gentle defrosting or low power setting. Again, this method is much faster than thawing in the refrigerator or cold water.
Can You Keep Meat in the Fridge Before Freezing It?
It is important to note that it’s not recommended to keep uncooked meat in the fridge for a long period of time before freezing them. Since bacteria can easily contaminate the meat, it’s best to freeze them immediately after purchasing.
However, if the meat is stored in the fridge at less than 40 degrees F for 2-3 days or before the ex-date, it still remains safe for freezing.
How do You Know if Meat Has Gone Bad in the Freezer?
When it comes to frozen meat, one of the most common signs that it has gone bad is freezer burn. This happens when air reaches the surface of the meat, leaving behind ice crystals and discolored patches on its surface.
If there’s a foul smell coming out from frozen meat or if they look slimy or sticky, it’s best to discard them as they may be contaminated with bacteria.
Is Meat Still Good After 2 Years in the Freezer?
Yes, as long as the meat is stored properly in an air-tight and moisture-proof container, it can be safe to consume after 2 years. However, the quality and flavor of the meat may not be as good.
Does Meat in the Freezer Go Bad?
Yes, meat can still go bad in the freezer if not stored properly and for too long. Freezer burn, bacterial contamination or changes in taste and texture can all be signs of spoiled meat.
Can You Eat 3-Year-Old Frozen Meat?
Yes, you can still eat 3-year-old frozen meat as long as it has been properly stored and is free from freezer burn or any signs of contamination. However, the quality and flavor may have changed. To be safe, it’s best to check the meat before consuming it.
Can You Cook Bacteria Out Of Meat?
No, cooking meat will not always guarantee to kill all the bacteria present in it. To ensure that your food is safe and free from contamination, it’s best to follow proper handling and storage guidelines.
What Happens to Meat Frozen Too Long?
If the meat has been frozen for too long, it may become dry and lose its flavor and texture. Freezer burn or bacterial contamination can also occur if the meat has not been properly stored. It’s best to discard these meats as they may no longer be safe to eat.
So, to wrap it all up, the answer to the question “How long can you keep meat in the freezer?” truly depends on the quality and the types of meat. Generally speaking, fresh meats can last anywhere from 2 months all the way up to 12 months or more.
How long you choose to have your meats stored in your freezer ultimately comes down to your personal preferences and how quickly you plan on consuming them. However, always remember to watch for ice crystals or discoloration when defrosting and cooking frozen meats, as that is a giveaway sign that your product may not be as fresh as it should be.
In any case, hopefully, this article helped you understand how long various types of meat can safely be kept in a freezer.