Preserving meat by freezing them and keeping them in the refrigerator or freezer is a safe method. However, the timing and instructions for storing frozen meat in the refrigerator and freezer vary. Refrigerated meat has a shorter shelf life than freezer.
1. Why must we preserve meat?
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year 48 million people experience food poisoning, including in restaurants and at home. In which, it is not clear what the rate of food poisoning cases in a particular home, however, regardless of the rate, the safe storage and handling of food at home is different.
According to the guidance of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on freezing and preserving meat in particular, food in general is safe, there are 2 types of bacteria on food that can grow:
Human pathogens: Human pathogenic bacteria grow on food very quickly if not refrigerated. This type of bacteria is very dangerous and often cannot be detected by seeing, smelling or tasting food.
Food spoilage bacteria: This bacteria grows on food. They change the taste and appearance of food. However, these bacteria are actually less pathogenic in humans than pathogenic bacteria.
Therefore, following the rules for safe meat storage will help keep food both delicious and limit food poisoning.
2. How to preserve meat safely?
Meats including beef, chicken, and pork can be safely stored in the freezer for the longest time and indefinitely.
According to USDA guidelines, freezing meat below -18 ° C inactivates microorganisms and slows the activity of enzymes that damage meat such as bacteria, mold, and yeast.
A vacuum is not required to freeze meat and preserve it safely. However, preventing moisture will help keep flavorful foods fresh longer when thawed and cooked.
Therefore, in addition to storing these foods safely in their original packaging, USDA also recommends that an extra layer of foil or foil be placed before placing meat in the deep frozen area. This extra coating will help retain moisture and keep the food tasting fresh. Freezing meat while its freshest also preserves its flavor and nutrients.
Thawed meats can be safely refrozen while they are not being cooked if they are properly defrosted. However, according to USDA guidelines, food that has been left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours or 1 hour should not be frozen if the food is kept above 32 ° C.
It can take up to a millennium to store frozen meats by the freezer, however we should not keep these foods in the freezer for too long as they will smell strange when eaten. Freezing undercooked meat is a safe method, but at some point it doesn’t taste good anymore. Before freezing meat, review the instructions and recommendations of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA on how long frozen meat is stored. The freezer is always the safest and longest option for storing meat compared to the refrigerator.
Besides preservation, we also need to pay attention to thawing foods properly after taking them out of the freezer. According to USDA guidelines for safe thawing, frozen meats should only be thawed in the refrigerator or in plastic bags when they are not leaking and submerged in cold water. Thawing this food at room temperature allows the bacteria to thrive.
And when thawing those frozen meats in the refrigerator, we need to make sure they don’t drip water on any other food when defrosted. The same way to store raw meat in the refrigerator is by placing it on a plate and covering it.
In addition to the freezer compartment, canned meat can also be stored for a very long time, from 2 to 5 years under proper conditions. But storing canned meat in the freezer or refrigerator is more restrictive because it has been canned in a specific format.
Canned is the process of keeping food safe and from spoiling. Food is heated to kill bacteria, then vacuum sealed to create a sterile environment and prevent new bacteria from growing.
In meat preservation in particular and food in general, there are very few examples that show that the refrigerator is a better storage option than freezer, especially canned foods. The FDA recommends that you skip freezing stuffed meats and only refrigerate them before cooking.
In addition, USDA also reports that mayonnaise, cream sauces and sauces do not freeze well. Therefore, sauces or sauces with processed meat should not be frozen.
3. Principles of meat preservation with the refrigerator
Keeping meat in the refrigerator is not the same as it is in the freezer, we need to be concerned with both safety and taste. Refrigerating meat at temperatures around 4 ° C will slow the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Refrigerators cannot be kept cold like freezers, so we should pay attention to the FDA recommended shelf life limits and foods that have been kept too long should not be used.
Most uncooked and cut beef can be refrigerated for 3 to 5 days. However, ground beef should only be kept in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Leftovers containing cooked beef should not be kept for more than 3-4 days. If it takes longer, it should not be used.
3.2 Poultry meat
Raw poultry including whole or individual parts such as breasts or thighs, meat or small pulp can only be kept refrigerated for 1-2 days. However, once cooked, the FDA says they can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days longer.
Fresh uncooked pork can be refrigerated for as long as any other meat for 3 – 5 days, including roasts or pork chops. Raw ground pork should only be kept in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. After cooked pork dishes should only be kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
The way to preserve raw pork is different from processed pork. Sausages or cuts in unopened bags can be kept refrigerated for about 2 weeks, but once opened, should only be kept for 3-5 days for sliced meat and up to 1 week for sausages.
Cooked bacon and ham can only be kept in the refrigerator for about 7 days. But monolithic hams can be refrigerated for 3-5 days and sliced ham can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
4. Principles of meat preservation with the freezer
So how long does it take to preserve the meat with the freezer, will it no longer taste good?
Most uncooked beef servings can be frozen for several months with no loss of quality.
According to the FDA, it is possible to keep cut beef like frozen steak for 4 – 12 months and steak for 6 – 12 months. Ground beef should be frozen for 3 – 4 months.
Once cooked, those greasy foods can also be safely frozen. However, the FDA recommends that they only keep them frozen for 2-3 months to ensure quality problems. Storing beef in the freezer may last longer than these guidelines, however the quality of the meat may be reduced.
Poultry meat such as whole chicken or turkey can be kept for up to 1 year without losing much quality. The FDA says chicken parts such as thighs, breasts or wings can last up to 9 months, but other parts, as well as ground chicken, cannot last longer than 3-4 months.
For uncooked pork, the instructions for freezer meat are the same as for beef. The fried meat can be frozen for 4 – 12 months, in the freezer for 4-6 months.
For cooked pork, the FDA recommends only keeping it frozen for 2-3 months to maximize its quality.
As recommended by the FDA, bacon and processed meat such as sausages, ham or sliced meat should only be frozen for about 1-2 months.