Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Meat Storage

I received an excellent question from Parsley in my last post about freezing meat.  She asked how long meat could last frozen?  Up to a year?

I have never had a problem storing meat up to a year, but I did a little research to see if nutrition or quality or safety could be affected after several months.  The best source of information that I found was on the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website.  They know what they’re talking about, so I’ll highlight the most important things I learned.

  • Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely.  The freezer should be kept at or below 0 °F.  If the power goes out undetected or someone leaves the door open for a long time, safety may be compromised.
  • Quality can decrease with time due to enzyme activity.  (See chart below).  When kept frozen at proper temperature, foods will retain color, flavor, and texture for specified times.
  • Freezing does not affect nutritional value.  Good news!
  • Packaging is important.  You can freeze meat directly in the supermarket package, but it’s not very airtight, so it only stays high quality for a couple of months.  The more airtight the storage method, the better the quality after defrosting.  Squeeze all air out of freezer bags.  Vacuum sealing is ideal.
  • Freeze it fast.  Ice crystals will form if frozen slowly.  If freezing several packages, don’t stack them on top of each other…spread them out to freeze faster.
  • Defrosting is key.  The best method for high quality is to defrost in the refrigerator for 1-2 days…plan ahead!  Defrosting in the microwave is safe, but it results in uneven cooking.  Never defrost on the kitchen counter.
  • Refreezing is OK.  The quality won’t be as good due to lost moisture, but it’s safe as long as it’s handled properly.

This chart shows the maximum amount of months frozen food can maintain a high quality when kept at or below 0 °F:



Bacon and sausage


Roasts, uncooked


Steaks or chops, uncooked


Ground meat, uncooked


Meat, cooked


Poultry, whole uncooked


Poultry, parts uncooked


Poultry, cooked


Soups, stews, and casseroles


1 comment:

Parsley said...

Awesome. You're my new go-to gal. ;)