Here is our guide to when to discard these foods, including those made of chicken, pork, and more.
If you have protein options in your freezer, hosting a backyard party full of mouthwatering grilling recipes or putting together a hearty family dinner can be a breeze. Additional savings come from purchasing meat in bulk and freezing some for later. How long does frozen meat last, though, if your ribeye has been in your freezer for a while?
The USDA states that frozen food can be eaten indefinitely. However, just because something is safe to eat doesn’t guarantee that it will remain delectable even after spending years in a deep freezer. Here’s how it works: Temperatures of zero degrees or lower render all bacteria, yeasts, and molds inactive and stop the growth of dangerous microorganisms. However, the quality of frozen foods will decline (consider taste, texture, color, etc.). ) over time, particularly if they are wrapped loosely or frozen gradually So even though your frozen steak is months old and won’t make you sick, it might not be the juiciest cut.
We created instructions based on FDA suggestions for how long to keep all kinds of meat in the freezer. For the healthiest—and tastiest—result, safely defrost meat when it’s time to thaw that prized piece.
*The graphic above depicts the Chief Food Director’s expert opinion on the quality of frozen meat over time, which may suggest freezing meat for a shorter period of time than the FDA’s suggested time, which is shown below.
|Freezer (0 °F or below)
|Fresh beef, veal, lamb, and pork
|4 to 12 months
|4 to 12 months
|4 to 12 months
|Fresh, uncured, uncooked
Does Frozen Meat “Go Bad?”
According to the USDA, frozen meat kept at 0°F or lower will always technically be safe to eat. This low temperature prevents the growth of microorganisms and microbes like bacteria and mold.
But that doesn’t mean it will taste good forever. Although freezer burn doesn’t render frozen meat unsafe, it will give it a dry, leathery texture. Look for ice crystals on the meat’s surface or a shriveled or discolored appearance to spot freezer burn.
You can cut off freezer-burned spots before or after cooking. Alternately, if the meat has been severely freezer-burned, you might want to discard it.
How Long Does Frozen Meat Last?
Generally speaking, a piece of meat will last longer the less processed it has been. Therefore, a whole, raw chicken can be frozen for up to a year, whereas cured and cooked beef hot dogs should only be frozen for a month or two.
Here is a list of popular uncooked meats along with how long they will remain delectable in the freezer.
- Bacon – 1 month
- Sausage (pork, beef, chicken, turkey) – 1-2 months
- Steaks – 6-12 months
- Pork chops – 4-6 months
- Pork butt or roast – 4-12 months
- Whole chicken or turkey – 1 year
- Cut chicken or turkey – 9 months
- Ground beef, turkey, or pork – 3-4 months
Cooked meat can also be frozen to extend its shelf life, so you are not limited to doing so with just raw meat.
As an illustration, you could prepare a sizable roast and freeze half of it to use in another recipe. Just keep in mind that since it hasn’t yet lost moisture during cooking, raw frozen meat maintains a tender texture for longer than cooked frozen meat.
Here are some recommended freezing times for cooked meat:
- Pork or beef hot dogs – 1-2 months
- Whole ham – 1-2 months
- Half ham – 1-2 months
- Poultry – approx. 4 months
- Pork and beef – 2-3 months
As you can see, there are no firm guidelines; rather, there is a range that can be influenced by the meat’s freshness at the time of freezing and the way it is packaged. Always label and date your frozen foods to ensure that you aren’t storing food in the freezer for an excessive amount of time!
What Is the Best Way to Package Meat For Freezing?
When preparing meat for freezing, it’s crucial to remember that air is your enemy. Because air causes freezer burn, you want as little as possible of it in your packaging!
If your meat is vacuum-sealed, you can successfully freeze it in its current condition. Because Styrofoam trays aren’t as airtight, you can either overwrap them in tightly clinging plastic wrap or repackage their contents by enclosing them in plastic and putting them inside freezer bags.
Meat that has already been cooked can also be frozen in a freezer-safe container or a freezer-bag. Before you zip it up, make sure to squeeze out as much air as you can, and label the cooked and fresh ingredients. Particularly when frozen, ground meat can be difficult to distinguish between raw and cooked.
To avoid the development of ice crystals, which will harm the texture, you want your packages to freeze as quickly as possible when you place them in the freezer. Until they are solid, place the items flat rather than stacking them. In a stand-alone freezer that isn’t opened frequently, you should ideally freeze your meat. The likelihood that you will lose temperature increases as you open your freezer more frequently.
If a Package Says “Keep Frozen,” Can It Go In the Refrigerator Instead?
It’s always best to follow the directions on the food package. This is done partly for reheating and partly for food safety reasons. Cooking instructions for foods with the phrase “keep frozen” frequently begin with the frozen state.
You can thaw food items in the refrigerator if a package directs you to do so before cooking. (See “How to Safely Thaw Frozen Meat” below for more information. ).
How Long Can I Keep Meat Refrigerated Before Freezing It?
It’s safe to freeze meat that has been kept in the refrigerator IF:
- It has been kept below 40°F in the refrigerator, and
- The packaging’s “use by” or “freeze by” dates have passed.
If the product doesn’t have a “use by” or “freeze by” date, make sure to freeze it within 1 to 2 days for ground meat or poultry, or 3 to 4 days for steaks, chops, or roasts. Check the FDA Food Storage Chart for a full list of refrigeration and freezer storage times.
What Is the Best Way to Safely Thaw Frozen Meat?
It’s never a good idea to thaw meat out on the kitchen counter. Dangerous bacteria can develop in meat that is left out at room temperature for longer than two hours (or one hour in the summer).
Meat can be safely thawed in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave, in that order.
Thawing Frozen Meat in the Refrigerator
The quickest but safest method for defrosting frozen meat is this one. For small items, an overnight thaw will usually be sufficient. Plan one day of thawing time for every five pounds of meat for a large piece of meat.
Thawing Frozen Meat in Cold Water
In comparison to the refrigerator, thawing meat in cold water is quicker, and the cool temperature inhibits bacterial growth. Put your food in a leak-proof container and completely immerse it in cold water. To ensure the water stays cold throughout the thawing process, replace it every 30 minutes.
Thawing Frozen Meat in the Microwave
The quickest way to defrost frozen meat is in the microwave, but this technique is best used for medium-sized cuts, like thick steaks and chicken pieces. Small items like thin pork chops can begin to cook in the microwave on the defrost setting. Large pieces of meat may actually begin to cook in some places while remaining frozen in others because the microwave doesn’t always thaw evenly.
Take the meat out of the package and arrange it on a plate or other microwave-safe surface to use this technique. Follow the microwave’s weight-based defrosting instructions, and be sure to check on the meat frequently to ensure even thawing.
After thawing, cook immediately.
Can Meat Be Refrozen After Being Thawed?
The USDA advises that if raw meat was thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it. It is preferable to cook the entire portion if you used the cold water or microwave method and to freeze the cooked leftovers after they have cooled for about 30 minutes or have stopped steaming.
It’s preferable to thaw and refreeze your meat just once as opposed to several times. Each time the meat is thawed, some moisture will be lost, and frequent freeze/thaw cycles could result in a chewy texture.
A Stocked Freezer Makes an Economical Kitchen!
Families can save money on groceries by keeping a well-stocked freezer because they can buy goods when they’re on sale or in bulk, which typically offers the best price per pound. Make it a habit to check the freezer before creating your shopping list or menu to ensure that you can use up what you have before you run the risk of freezer burn.
Stock up on meat from a source that complies with strict animal welfare standards, such as Coleman Natural Foods, so you can feel good about feeding your family a consistent supply of protein that is ready to thaw and add to any recipe.
How long should you keep meat in the fridge or freezer?
Does beef go bad in freezer?
Uncooked beef, poultry, and pork can be kept for up to a year in the freezer, while fully cooked meats like ham, sausage, and bacon can be frozen for up to two months. For roughly three to four months, raw hamburgers and ground beef should remain fresh.
Is beef still good after 2 years in freezer?
Information. Frozen beef will be safe indefinitely. Use raw steaks, roasts, or chops within four to twelve months, raw ground beef within four months, and cooked beef within two to three months for best quality.
Can meat last 5 years in the freezer?
There is no doubt that the freezer is the best place to store food for the longest periods of time, regardless of the type of meat used (beef, chicken, pork, or fish). That’s because you can safely freeze meats indefinitely.
How long does steak last in the freezer?
Your steaks will continue to be of exceptional quality for up to a year after receiving them in the freezer, but for the best taste and tenderness, we advise enjoying them within six months.