How to freeze meat to safe wastage

how to freeze meat
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If you like buying beef in bulk, have found chicken breasts at a bargain price or simply have leftover lamb chops to store, freezing meat is the easiest way to preserve it. However, what’s the best way to wrap meat for freezing, and how long can you freeze meat for? Follow our handy guide to freezing meat and your questions will be answered…

How to freeze chicken

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How long can chicken be frozen for?

Chicken is at its best up to 3 months from the point of being frozen. After that point, it’s safe to eat, but the quality might not be as good.

How do I prepare chicken for freezing?

For short-term freezing - up to a month - if chicken breasts are still sealed in their packaging, you can freeze them in there. If you have an open packet of chicken breasts or you plan on storing them for a few months - unless they’re already vacuum-packed - wrap them tightly in non-stick parchment paper or clingfilm, pressing out as much air as possible to eliminate any freezer burn, or alternatively if you have a vacuum sealer, you can vacuum seal the meat. Freeze the wrapped items in a single layer on a tray or plate, then store in a container or bag, labelled with the date of freezing. This allows you to remove only what you need and keep track of when the food will be at its best.

Chicken legs/thighs and whole chickens can be frozen in their packaging. If they have been opened, put them in a large freezer bag, press out as much air as possible and then seal tightly. Label with the date of freezing.

What’s the best way to defrost chicken?

The safest way to defrost chicken is to put it in the fridge a day ahead of when you need it. This allows it to defrost evenly and keeps it at a temperature that doesn’t allow bacteria to flourish. Make sure it’s kept wrapped, in a container where any water from defrosting can collect, and that it is not touching any other food that it could contaminate.

However, in certain circumstances, you can cook chicken from frozen. We don’t recommend doing it with whole birds or large cuts, but single chicken breasts can be cooked from frozen in the oven. You just have to double the cooking time, and use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature gets up to at least 70°C, or cut the meat after cooking to check the centre is fully cooked. Our decadent stuffed chicken breast recipe has instructions for cooking from frozen.

How soon should I use up chicken after defrosting?

Once you’ve defrosted chicken, you need to use it up within a day. Once it’s defrosted, it can be used and cooked with as you would with fresh chicken.

How to freeze beef

how to freeze meat
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How long can beef be frozen for?

Beef is at it’s best when frozen for up to 3 months. It will still be safe to eat after that time, but the quality of it may begin to decline.

How do I prepare beef for freezing?

To prepare steaks for freezing, unless they are vacuum-packed from the supermarket, wrap them tightly in non-stick parchment paper or clingfilm, pressing out as much air as possible to eliminate any freezer burn (insert link), or alternatively if you have a vacuum sealer, you can vacuum seal the meat. Freeze the wrapped items in a single layer on a tray or plate, then store in a container or bag, labelled with the date of freezing. This allows you to remove only what you need and keep track of when the food will be at its best.

For larger joints of beef, beef mince or diced beef, freeze in its original packaging, unless already opened. If you have unwrapped joints or cuts, bag up into a freezersafe bag, pressing it as tightly against the surface of the meat and expelling any air you can. Twist tightly to seal.

What’s the best way to defrost beef?

Defrost steaks in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight, or until thawed. If you want to defrost steaks quickly to use for cooking immediately, and the steaks are completely sealed in packaging that won’t let in water, you can submerge them in a roasting tin of cold tap water, checking every 10-15mins, and replenishing the water if it feels too icy, until defrosted. We do not recommend using this method if you are planning on cooking the meat at a later point and don’t be tempted to use tepid, warm or hot water, as this can encourage bacterial growth.

For diced meat or larger joints, defrost in the fridge overnight or until thawed.

How soon do you use up beef after defrosting?

Once you’ve defrosted beef, you need to use it up within a day. Once it’s defrosted, it can be used and cooked with as you would with fresh beef.

How to freeze pork

how to freeze meat
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How long can pork be frozen for?

Fresh pork can be frozen for up to 3 months, and cured pork products like bacon and ham fare best when frozen for up to 2 months. They are still safe to consume after this point, but the texture and flavour may begin to lessen.

How do I prepare pork for freezing?

To prepare chops for freezing, unless they are vacuum-packed from the supermarket, wrap them tightly in non-stick parchment paper or clingfilm, pressing out as much air as possible to eliminate any freezer burn (insert link), or alternatively if you have a vacuum sealer, you can vacuum seal the meat. Freeze the wrapped items in a single layer on a tray or plate, then store in a container or bag, labelled with the date of freezing. This allows you to remove only what you need and keep track of when the food will be at its best.

For larger joints of pork, pork mince or diced pork, freeze in its original packaging, unless already opened. If you have unwrapped joints or cuts, bag up into a freezersafe bag, pressing it as tightly against the surface of the meat and expelling any air you can. Twist tightly to seal.

What’s the best way to defrost pork?

The safest way to defrost pork chops and bacon in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight, or until thawed. If you want to defrost pork chops or bacon quickly for immediate cooking, and they are sealed in packaging that won’t let in water, you can submerge the package in a roasting tin of cold tap water, checking every 10-15mins, and replenishing the water if it feels too cold, until defrosted. We do not recommend using this method if you are planning on cooking the meat at a later point and don’t be tempted to use tepid, warm or hot water, as this can encourage bacterial growth.

For diced meat, mince or larger joints, defrost in the fridge overnight or until thawed.

How soon do you use up pork after defrosting?

Once you’ve defrosted fresh pork, you need to use it up within a day, or 1-2 days for bacon. Once it’s defrosted, it can be used and cooked with as you would with fresh pork or bacon.

How to freeze lamb

how to freeze meat
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How long can lamb be frozen for?

Lamb is at its best up to 2 months from the point of being frozen. After that point, it’s safe to eat, but the texture and flavour can begin to deteriorate.

How do I prepare lamb for freezing?

To prepare lamb chops for freezing, unless they are vacuum-packed from the supermarket, wrap them tightly in non-stick parchment paper or clingfilm, pressing out as much air as possible to eliminate any freezer burn (insert link), or alternatively if you have a vacuum sealer, you can vacuum seal the meat. Freeze the wrapped items in a single layer on a tray or plate, then store in a container or baglabelled with the date of freezing. This allows you to remove only what you need and keep track of when the food will be at its best.

For larger joints of lamb, lamb mince or diced lamb, freeze in its original packaging, unless already opened. If you have unwrapped joints or cuts, bag up into a freezersafe bag, pressing it as tightly against the surface of the meat and expelling any air you can. Twist tightly to seal.

What’s the best way to defrost lamb?

The safest way to defrost lamb chops and smaller joints in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight, or until thawed. If you want to defrost chops quickly for immediate cooking, and they are sealed in packaging that won’t let in water, you can submerge the package in a roasting tin of cold tap water, checking every 10-15mins, and replenishing the water if it feels too chilly, until defrosted. We do not recommend using this method if you are planning on cooking the meat at a later point and don’t be tempted to use tepid, warm or hot water, as this can encourage bacterial growth.

For diced meat, mince or larger joints, defrost in the fridge overnight or until thawed.

How soon do you use up lamb after defrosting?

Once you’ve defrosted lamb, you need to use it up within a day. Once it’s defrosted, it can be used and cooked with as you would with fresh meat.

How to freeze cooked meat?

Cooked meats fare best when they’re in a stew or sauce, as the liquid acts as a protective layer and stops the surface from drying out and geting freezer burn. You can freeze cooked meat portions by wrapping individual pieces tightly in parchment or clingfilm to eliminate any air, then freezing until solid before bagging up and labelling. As the cooking process removes a portion of the water from raw meat, cooked meat is much more likely to dry out or suffer from freezer burn or take on flavours from the freezer, so make sure you’ve wrapped it well and keep frozen for a maximum of 2 months.

How to defrost cooked meat?

The safest way to defrost cooked meat is in the fridge overnight, or until thawed.

How soon do you use up lamb after defrosting?

Once you’ve defrosted cooked meat, you need to use it up within a day. Once it’s defrosted, it can be eaten cold or reheated once and consumed. If you use it within another dish, do not freeze the dish containing previously frozen meat.

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