Date: May 1989 (Revised April 1995)
Source: NDSU Extension Service Nutrition Specialists
Wrap all meat products well before you freeze them. This prevents flavor changes and drying of the meat. Heavy duty foil and coated freezer paper are excellent barriers to both air and moisture. Regular weight aluminum foil becomes brittle at low temperatures and does not make a good freezer wrap. Multiple-layer freezer bags you can seal tightly are also effective wraps.
Remove the supermarket plastic overwrap when you freeze meats, unless you plan to store meat only for a week or two. The film overwrap lets in oxygen to keep the color bright in the meat case. While this is fine for refrigerated storage, it leads to freezer burn in frozen storage.
Freeze meats and poultry in meal-sized quantities. If you stock up during a sale, rewrap and freeze meat as soon as you get it home. Separate chops, steaks, ground meat patties or chicken parts with a sheet of plastic wrap before you stack them for the freezer. If you take the time to do this, you will be able to separate them for cooking, even when they are still solidly frozen.
If a freezer stays at 0 F or lower, meats will keep for several months. Store roasts and whole poultry for six to 12 months; steaks and chops for four to six months, and ground meats or stew meats for three or four months. Cured and processed meats lose quality more rapidly than fresh meats because of the presence of salts. Do not store luncheon meats, franks, ham or sausage longer than one or two months.
These are approximate storage times--if you keep meats solidly frozen and store them at 0 F, they will remain safe to eat well beyond the recommended time. However, they may show quality change like rancid off-flavors in the fats or dryness from freezer burn.
Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator, in the microwave or cook them without thawing. Do not thaw meat at room temperature, because this will give surface bacteria a better chance to multiply.
If you have further questions, please contact your county office of the NDSU Extension Service.
Back to Freezing Food Menu
Go to Ask Extension Index Page
For More Information Contact your North Dakota County Extension Office of the NDSU Extension Service for additional information or see our main NDSU Web Page for publications and articles on Agriculture, Horticulture, Youth and Family, Business and Community and Food and Nutrition at http://www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/