Meat Freezing FAQ

Freezing meat has many advantages. Having a freezer allows you to buy in bulk and also allows you to stock up on meat when it is on sale at the grocery store. Having meat available is also helpful on busy days when dinner needs to be on the table in a short amount of time.

According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are standards for keeping frozen items fresh and safe. Consider the USDA's answers to these common freezing questions.
Can all meats be frozen?
Most meat can be frozen, although some meats will remain fresher for a longer period of time. Red meat, such as steaks and roast, can be frozen up to one year and still remain fresh. Poultry and fish tend to lose freshness more quickly and should be eaten within approximately six months. Processed meats, such as lunch meat, ham and hot dogs, can be stored for about three months before losing their ideal freshness and texture.
Can meat be frozen in its original container?
Meat can be frozen in its original container, such as the foam backing with plastic shrink-wrap that typically accompanies grocery store meat. If you think you will be freezing the meat for an extended period, it is best to place an additional wrapping around the package (such as foil or butcher paper) to prevent freezer burn.
Will meat spoil if it is left in the freezer for too long?
Meat will not necessarily spoil if it is kept in the freezer for a short time after the recommended freezing time. However, it will lose its freshness, and it may possibly develop freezer burn. If meat is kept in the freezer for an extended period of time (i.e., five years), it is possible it will become rancid and unsafe to eat. If you remove meat from the freezer and it smells funny or rotten, do not take any chances; throw it away.
Should meat that has freezer burn be thrown away?
Items that are exposed to air through a tear or hole in a package may develop a grayish tint and become dried out. This area of the meat is probably not spoiled, but it will not be tasty when cooked, as it will be dry and rubbery. If the rest of the meat has not been exposed to air, it's possible to cut off the freezer-burned portion and cook the rest of the meat.
How should frozen meat be thawed?
There are three safe ways to thaw frozen meat: in the refrigerator, in cool water or in the microwave. According to the USDA, meat should never be thawed on a kitchen counter, outdoors or in a car. Bacteria can develop, which can cause illness.
Is it safe to refreeze meat after thawing?
Meat can be refrozen, but only if it was unthawed in a refrigerator and has not been out of the freezer for more than two days. Meat that is refrozen often loses much of its freshness and taste, and refreezing is not recommended.
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