How to freeze meat including pork, beef and lamb with freezer storage times.
If you have a large chest freezer at home, it is almost certain that you will want to freeze quantities of meat for a period of time, and possibly a lot of it, especially if you have a large number of red meat-eating family members at home.
Most of us will purchase already pre-packaged cut meat, such as chops and steaks, from the supermarket and toss it into the freezer on arriving home. A lot of the time we do not over-wrap the products nor do we label them with the date, weight or contents.
For those with a large freezer that you could possibly get lost in, this could become a problem and a waste of hard-earned money, as over time frozen meat will be susceptible to freezer burn, deterioration and rancidity. If precautions are not taken, this could occur sooner rather than later.
Fresh meat that is available in supermarket packaging consisting of a polystyrene tray with a plastic film cover may be stored in the freezer. With this type of packaging the meat will freeze well for several months.
However, for longer periods of freezing it is advisable to over-wrap the packages with either cling film or heavy-duty aluminium. This is to prevent any air entering the package, which would then lead to freezer burn and cause the meat to dry out, lose its flavour, colour and texture.
Ideally, and for space saving and storage purposes, the meat should be divided into convenient sized portions for your needs and tightly wrapped in cling film, freezer bags or heavy duty aluminium foil. All packaging must be moisture-vapour resistant, heavy-duty, and clean and all air should be excluded or squeezed out on sealing. Never wrap any food products in plastics carrier bags obtained from the supermarket, as the chemicals used to manufacture the bags may react with the food product.
It is important to label all foods that you put into the freezer with the date, weight, contents and the date by which they should be consumed.
When purchasing meat from your local butcher or supermarket, it is important that you freeze it as soon as possible after purchasing for quality of meat as well as food safety purposes. Fresh meat is highly perishable and should not be left out of the refrigerator or freezer for longer than 2 hours, although 2 hours is still long enough.
Meat products are susceptible to bacteria, which can cause food poisoning and illness. Therefore care must be taken when handling raw meat and you must ensure that all surfaces, utensils and especially your hands are clean.
Although meat products can be stored for many months in the freezer, after a certain amount of time, depending on the type of meat and amount of fat it contains, it will eventually go off and need to be discarded.
Meat, poultry and fish will turn rancid, even if stored in the freezer, after a certain amount of time. This may be due to poorly wrapped products or incorrect packing being used. However, over time, these products will naturally turn rancid due to chemical changes that take place.
In order to prolong the freezer storage time and to ensure that spoilage of the product does not occur too quickly, it is best to trim all excess fat from the meat product before wrapping and storing in the freezer.
In other words, the less visible fat on a product, the longer it will keep in the freezer. In saying this, cured meats such as bacon or ham, will not freeze for as long as other products, as the high quantities of salt contained within these products will also speed up the rancidity process.
Below is some detailed information on how to package and prepare certain cuts of meat for freezing with freezer storage times included.
Joints of Meat
Large joints of meat such as beef, lamb, pork or veal should be placed in heavy-duty polythene bags and then tightly over-wrapped with cling film, ensuring that no air can enter nor any moisture escape. Make sure that the packaging is durable and that it will not tear during storage.
Freezer storage times
Beef joint - 8 months
Lamb, pork and veal joints - 6 months
Cutlets, chops, burgers, cubed meat, steaks
Divide small cuts of meat into suitable sized portions for your family's needs. For easier handling purposes, chops, burgers and steaks may be separated from each other with waxed paper, so that it is easy to remove the amount that you will need for one meal. Package in plastic containers, freezer bags, cling film or aluminium foil and a combination of the above.
Freezer storage times
Beef steaks or chops may be stored for up to 6 months in the freezer, whereas leaner meats with less saturated fat should be stored for no longer than 3 months. Ideally, store pork chops or steaks for up to 3 months and veal or lamb chops or steaks for 1 - 2 months.
Divide minced meat into individual portion sizes and store in polythene bags or rigid containers or wrap in aluminium foil over-wrapped with cling film.
Freezer storage times
Minced beef, veal or lamb - 2 - 3 months
Minced pork - 1 - 2 months
Sausages and offal
Wrap sausages in aluminium foil or cling film or place into polythene bags. Wash and trim the offal and store in plastic containers or polythene bags.