To Freeze or Not to Freeze?
Monday, January 30, 2023
Health and safety tips for frozen meat
As demand for protein – from beef to poultry – steadily increases, consumers stock up on their favorite cuts. Stashing it all in the freezer remains the go-to option, but what does this do to food long-term? You may have found yourself frantically searching the internet to see if your hamburger is still good after a month, or maybe even a year.
While freezing meat prevents unwanted bacteria, the process also impacts the meat in different areas. For example, one study posted on the National Library of Medicine website in 2021 claimed that freezing improves meat tenderness. However, it can have a negative impact on other qualities, including color and flavor. The intensity of changes to the meat mostly depends on the freezer’s size and distribution of ice crystals caused by the freezer’s temperature and the meat’s length of time in the freezer.
Unfortunately, researchers have not created a set of hard and fast rules about freezing and storing meat because all freezers are different, as well as the cuts of meat and other factors. However, a study on the National Library of Medicine website from 2013 recommends storing meat at 0° F. According to the USDA, food stays safe indefinitely in the freezer, but once removed and beginning to thaw, bacteria start to spread.
The USDA also gives suggestions for three methods for safely thawing food:
- In the refrigerator – this method takes the most time, so plan ahead. Ever forget to cook the thawed meat sitting in the fridge? The USDA says not to worry. It stays safe for an extra day or two.
- In cold water – while faster than the fridge method, this requires more supervision. Place the meat in an airtight, leak-proof container before giving it a cold-water bath.
- In the microwave – for safety’s sake, cook meat thawed in the microwave immediately.
Even after an extended stay in the freezer, frozen meat retains its nutrition and most of its flavor. So, check the freezer temperature, follow the USDA’s thawing suggestions and enjoy a delicious meal.
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