How many times have you checked your freezer and found meat that you have forgotten all about? Don’t worry, it happens frequently to me as well. Now you may be left wondering whether you should still cook it, let alone lay a finger on it. Well, here is some good news!
Freezing meat is actually the best way to keep them fresh longer than their recommended use-by date. This is especially handy if you buy your meat in bulk. So, just how long can you store frozen meat in the freezer and consider it still safe to eat? Read on and find out the answer.
- Is it safe to eat 2-year-old frozen meat?
- How long can I safely store certain meat?
- How do I properly store and freeze meat?
- How do I thaw frozen meat?
- Can I thaw my frozen meat at room temperature?
- How soon should I cook food after thawing?
- Can I refreeze thawed meat?
- Does freezing food kill bacteria?
- Should I toss all the food in my freezer after a power outage?
- Is it true that frozen food is less nutritious than fresh food?
Is it safe to eat 2-year-old frozen meat?
Short answer – yes. If meat is kept at zero degrees and below, it will be good for an indefinite amount of time. However, this assumes that no power outage occurred or that your refrigerator is reliable enough to maintain that low temperature all throughout.
How long can I safely store certain meat?
Assuming they stay solid, frozen meat can be stored in your freezer for an indefinite amount of time. According to the USDA, keeping food frozen prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illnesses. However, you should still expect changes in the texture and flavor of the meat the longer you keep them frozen.
If using a reliable freezer with sub-zero temperature, chicken can be stored between 9 to 12 months. Ground meat can be kept in the freezer for 3 to 4 months whereas red meat can be stored from 4 to 12 months. Lastly, processed food like bacon and sausage are best stored between 1 to 2 months. It doesn’t mean that eating meat that has been sitting in your freezer for a very long time will taste great, however, it does mean it is still safe for consumption. But if your meat looks questionable, don’t risk it. Best to toss it away for safety.
How do I properly store and freeze meat?
The main concern around storing meat is freezer burn, which happens when meat dries out and leaves white spots due to exposure to oxygen in the freezer.
In order to avoid this, it is best to wrap your meat in a plastic wrapper or freezer paper. Make sure it is tightly wrapped to prevent air from coming through. Then wrap it with aluminum foil. Lastly, put the meat in a sealable bag and label it with the date.
A simpler way for optimum storage is simply wrapping your meat in a vacuum-sealable bag and labeling it with the date for your reference.
Now, all that may have seemed like a lot of unnecessary wrapping, however, if you want to have the best meat with no freezer burn, it is the best way to go. Although you can also use containers, they are not nearly as effective in doing a good job of preserving the meat.
How do I thaw frozen meat?
There are plenty of ways to thaw frozen food, but the slowest is by far the best way to go.
According to the USDA, thawing food in the fridge is the best and safest option. Transfer your meat from the freezer to the fridge the night before you use it. If you will need to defrost bigger meat like a whole piece of turkey, leave a few more days to thaw it out.
The next thawing method makes use of cold water. This is a quicker way. With your meat in a sealable bag, submerge it in cold water. Change the water every so often to ensure it is kept cold.
The quickest thawing method makes use of the microwave. Most microwaves readily come with a defrost function that sets the thawing time depending on the weight of the meat. Make sure to check the instructions for your specific model. It is worth noting that not many people are a fan of this method due to the fact that, just like using hot water to defrost, thawing in a microwave may heat the meat up and cause the outer surfaces to cook quicker.
Lastly, make sure to cook food thawed in cold water or the microwave right away.
Can I thaw my frozen meat at room temperature?
It is not ideal to thaw frozen meat at room temperature. Food should be kept at a safe and cool temperature during thawing to prevent bacteria growth. Leaving raw meat by the countertop to thaw is a bad idea as this potentially promotes the growth of bacteria.
How soon should I cook food after thawing?
It is best to cook the meat as soon as it is thawed. Exposing meat at room temperature for a prolonged period puts it at risk of bacteria growing.
If you thawed your ground meat, stew meat, poultry, or fish in the fridge, best to cook them within a day or two. Steaks and red meat roasts can stay in your fridge for up to 5 days before you need to cook them.
Can I refreeze thawed meat?
Experts mention that it is safe to refreeze and subsequently eat meat provided it was thawed in the fridge and kept cold (40°F or below). You can expect undesirable changes in texture and flavor but it will still be safe to eat.
The process of thawing and refreezing can disrupt the growth of bacteria and mold that naturally occur in aging food. When thawing temperature is high enough, these organisms multiply to the point that they are no longer safe to eat.
Does freezing food kill bacteria?
Although freezing will not kill bacteria, it will slow their growth that is why it is always advisable to keep your meat in the coldest section of the freezer such as the bottom or the back of the freezer.
Should I toss all the food in my freezer after a power outage?
If you lose power, keep the freezer door closed as much as possible so that it stays cold inside. Food that has been thawed or partially thawed in your freezer can be safely refrozen if the food has not gone above 40°F. Although you may see some changes in the quality of the food, it will still be safe to eat. As a precautionary measure, any food that has thawed and was above 40°F for more than two hours should be tossed out.
Is it true that frozen food is less nutritious than fresh food?
This is a common misconception that is not necessarily true. Frozen food is able to retain its nutritional value.