Buying meat in bulk from your local grocer when it’s on sale or directly from a local butcher will save you a lot of money. This is particularly important since meat is costly and makes up a large portion of your grocery budget.
The challenge in freezing meat is doing it properly to preserve the quality and taste of the meat for months down the road when you are ready to consume it. Freezing it properly is important because just throwing the store bought package in your freezer will not prevent freezer burn that destroys the quality of the meat. Let’s take a look at the proper way to freeze meat for the preservation of quality and taste.
How to prepare the meat
Keep your meat in the refrigerator, at a temperature below 40 degrees F, until you are ready to freeze it.
- The meat needs to be frozen within 3 days of purchase.
Remove the meat from the store packaging.
- Store packaging is not adequate or designed to preserve the quality or taste of the meat beyond a few days.
For large pieces of meat, cut it into meal or individual portions.
- For poultry, keep de-boned meat separate from the meat that still has the bones.
- When freezing ground pork or beef, you can freeze it by portion or by formed patties.
- Important: Do NOT rinse the meat before freezing it. If you want to rinse it, do it after the frozen meat has been thawed when you are preparing it to be cooked.
Wrapping the meat to be frozen
Center the meat on a large piece of uncoated freezer/butcher paper.
Freezer paper can be coated or uncoated. Both perform equally well in freezing and preserving the meat.
Coated freezer paper has one side coated with plastic or wax. The purpose of coated freezer paper is to better contain the liquid leakage during when thawing.
Coated freezer paper cannot be recycled or composted.
Uncoated freezer paper, provides less protection against leakage when being thawed. To contain liquid leakage (water, blood and fat) when thawing, simply put a platter or bowl under the frozen package. The liquid leaked from thawing can simply be discarded and the platter or bowl washed.
Uncoated freezer paper without food residue can be reused before it is recycled: Make your own gift wrap; roll and stuff under doors and in window cracks for extra insulation; use instead of paper towels when cleaning windows and mirrors; line the bottom of a garbage can or litter box to absorb liquids and keep down odors; spread wet shreds around plants to discourage weeds; stuff into stored boots and handbags to help keep their shape; or use twisted for kindling when starting a fire.
Uncoated and unsoiled sections of the freezer paper can be recycled easily with regular paper by your local municipal recycling center.
While uncoated freezer paper can be home-composted, the much better options are to reuse and recycle the unsoiled areas because:
- There is very little, if any, nutritional value to plants because nearly all the natural nutrients from the pulp are lost in processing.
- Due to the weight (thickness) of the freezer paper, it takes longer than a season to degrade.
If there are any protruding bones in the piece of meat to be frozen, cover the immediate area with paper padding to prevent the bone from poking through the freezer packaging which will allow freezer burn.
Wrap the piece of meat tightly with the freezer paper.
- Bring the top and bottom of the freezer paper together over the meat, then fold the freezer paper down towards the meat, making small folds, each 1⁄2 to 1 inch (1.3 to 2.5 cm).
Tuck the ends of the freezer paper around the package.
- Work out as much of the air as you can.
- Secure the tucked ends to the package with freezer tape.
Repeat Step 3 and Step 4 so that the meat is double wrapped.
- If you are freezing patties together, put two pieces of freezer paper between them so you can easily get them apart after they are thawed.
When freezing a whole bird, tuck the wings in, tie the legs and remove the internal organs.
- Wrap it tightly in freezer paper and seal it with freezer tape.
- Repeat so the bird is double wrapped.
- Freeze the giblets, heart, and liver separately.
With a magic marker, label the package with the date and contents.
Freezing the meat
Put the wrapped meat in a freezer set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
- It’s best not to freeze large quantities of meat together because it will take longer to freeze.
Put the meat to be frozen in the coldest area of the freezer.
- The packages will freeze much faster if the packages are separated.
- The faster the meat is frozen, the less likely ice crystals will gather around the meat which causes freezer burn.
- Once the packaged meat is frozen, you can arrange the contents of your freezer to your liking.
Avoid frequently opening and closing the freezer as it is important for the meat maintain a frozen temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
- It may be advisable to have a separate freezer (upright or chest) if you will be freezing meat on a regular basis. You can also use this second freezer to freeze fruit and vegetables.
Storing and refreezing the meat
Store your meat or poultry at a constant temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
- Your meat and poultry will remain safe almost indefinitely. However, the meat starts to lose its quality after being frozen longer than 6 months.
- Any frozen meat needs to be consumed within 1 year and poultry within 9 months.
- The quality of the frozen meat depends entirely on proper wrapping (tight and with two layers) and maintaining a constant frozen temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Check your meat for freezer burn when you pull it from the freezer to eat.
- Signs of freezer burn are brown spots, ice crystals and distinct frozen smell.
- While meat that is mildly freezer burnt may be safe to eat, there will be a noticeable loss of quality … especially the taste.
Cured meat like bacon or ham should NOT be stored frozen for longer than 2 months.
- The salt used in the curing process causes cured meat to quickly become rancid after 2 months.
You can refreeze your refrigerated raw meat safely.
- As long as you thawed your meat in the refrigerator, you can refreeze it using the steps outline in” Wrapping the meat “and “Freezing the meat” outlined above.
- There may be a loss in the quality of the meat after it has been previously thawed due to the loss of moisture.
Cooked meat can be refrozen within 3 days.
- Do not refreeze cooked meat if it has been out of the refrigerator longer than 2 hours.
Though it seems like there are many steps required in properly freezing meat, it is actually quite easy. So, start buying your meat in bulk when it’s on sale and freeze it to reduce your grocery expense!