Why do I need to take so much care?
Ever seen that pink liquid at the bottom of the plastic bag when you defrost your meat? It’s called “purge”, and it’s a combo of water and meat proteins that drain from the meat.
It’s not what you want to see.
Here’s what causes it… ice crystals form and expand within meat as it freezes and damage the cells.
When the meat defrosts, it loses liquid, and it will be dry not juicy.
However, if you freeze correctly, you’ll drastically reduce the purge and retain the texture of your meat.
Three key factors in storage time:
- Fat content the higher the fat content, the shorter the storage time
- Seasoning the more highly seasoned the meat such sausages, the shorter freezing
- Onions the flavour of some vegetables and spices intensifies in the freezer. Onions in particular. So casseroles or stews with onions in have a shorter “freezer life”
Basic principles of freezing
Air… it’s your no. 1 enemy.
Freezers do just one thing. They make cold air.
Cold air does two things…
- It freezes food.
- It drys food.
That’s the how freeze-dried coffee is made in a freezer.
The cold dry air in your freezer literally sucks the moisture out of your food and carries it off to the coldest bit of the freezer.
That’s usually the walls, hence the frost.
But, if you stop the air from getting to your food, that drying out process takes a whole lot longer.
So it’s essential that anything you put in your freezer is as airtight as possible.
It’s rule no. 1.
Tips to freezing meat
Here’s some other tips and ideas to help achieve this:
- Prepare and freeze meat as soon as possible to lock in the flavour
- Don’t freeze too much food at once or it’ll slow down the freezing process
- It’s the air that does the freezing so don’t stack up stuff you want to freeze. Put it on racks to let the air circulate
- Freeze in portions – for one meal or a cooking session (*large portions of meat cannot be frozen in one go) and make dividers between the meat such as steak, chicken before wrapping that meal portion. This makes thawing quicker
- Wrapping. The longer it takes to freeze, the more it will need wrapping – you can’t over-wrap your meat!
- Rapid/Fast freeze – if your fridge has one, it’s always best to use when freezing over 1kg of meat as it stops molecules from forming ice crystal. If don’t have a Rapid freeze, just turn your freezer down to -23 degrees Celsius and set a timer to remind you to turn it back up to normal after it’s frozen
- Separate chops steaks etc. with grease-proof paper so that they can be separated easily when thawing
- Freezing in original packages – over-wrap them to prevent the air from getting in
- Trim off excess fat – fat has a much shorter freezer life compared to lean meat
- Joints of meat like beef, lamb, pork or veal should be stored in heavy-duty polythene bags and tightly over-wrapped with cling film, ensuring that no air can enter nor any moisture escape.
- Labelling – always label your meat with the type, portion and “freeze-until” date (it works better than “date-frozen”)
- Refreezing – cooked food is OK but never refreeze thawed raw meat
Guideline to freezing different types of meat
Here’s a quick guide to the maximum length of time your meat should be frozen.
|Type of Meat||Maximum Storage –18°C (0 °F)|
|Beef joints and steaks||8 to 12 months|
|Minced beef||3 months|
|Joints of pork (shoulder, leg etc)||4 to 8 months|
|Pork chops||3 to 4 months|
|Lamb chops||3 to 4 months|
|Joints of lamb (shoulder, leg etc)||6 to 9 months|
|Minced or cubed lamb||3 to 4 months|
|Meat pies||1 to 2 months|
|Sausages||1 to 2 months|
- Best practice – defrost at the bottom of the fridge on a plate or tray to catch the juices
- Under cold running water – use a sealed container for your raw meat and poultry (including large joints and whole birds)
- Room temperature – you could defrost food at room temperature but follow the manufacturer’s defrosting instructions. Food should be left out at room temperature for the shortest time possible
Storing meat in the fridge
A quick guide to the maximum time you should store fresh meat in your fridge.
- Apart from bacon, meat needs circulating air in the fridge so as not to spoil, so it’s best to remove meat from its packaging once you get it home
- Store different meats separately
- You can store meat stored on a plate at the bottom of the fridge but not touching any other food
Meat stored in your fridge
Max storage 1-4 °C (33.8F – 39.2F)
Sausages, mince, diced meat, chicken pieces, beef and pork ribs
approx. 2 days
Whole chicken, steaks, roasts (boned and rolled)
approx. 2-3 days
Roasts (with bone in)
Roasts (with bone out)
Cured meats (ready to eat)
up to a week
source: the ginger pig
If you have some great tips on freezing or defrosting, drop me a line or add a comment to share…
Further references include: