We all have experienced this situation: we went to our favorite grocery store to pick up some dinner ingredients and saw our favorite meat on sale. Like many other cookers who love good deals, you might have made your stocks with a raw steak, chicken, lamb, or pork. On top of that, you may have also bought some breakfast ingredients that you are planning to freeze for those lazy days.
While the rush and excitement of buying as many packs as possible are accurate, this question might have come through your mind: “How long does meat stay safely frozen?” or “Can frozen meat go ever bad?“. Whether you had asked yourself these questions while you were shopping or when you got home, the answers you are searching for on the internet are quite different. Luckily, this article will answer these questions and clear this dilemma finally.
The Shelf Life Of Frozen Meat
According to the USDA, all food that is stored at 0 °F or lower in the freezer is safe to eat without any doubt.
It is essential to note that while food constantly stored at 0 degrees will always be safe, its quality will decrease once defrosted. While consuming this meat might not make you sick, it will not necessarily taste like the freshest cooked protein.
Therefore, I want to help you make the most of the freezer space. Hence I have broken down everything you should remember when speaking about raw and cooked meat. Whether it is seafood, poultry, chicken, or lamb, each type of meat has its particular shelf life.
So, if you are wondering how long the frozen meat is safe to eat, the answer depends on the type of meat we are referring to.
Before we move on, I want to highlight the fact that it is essential always to remember that not all types of frozen meat are safe to eat after freezing equally. The period the meat is stored in the freezer is influenced by its particularities.
- Ground meat is safe to stay in the freezer for around 3 to 4 months.
- Red meat is more resistant than the previous ones and can last up to 4-12 months at constant 0 degrees Celsius.
- Sausages and bacon can only last for two months at 0 degrees Celsius.
- Fresh pieces of veal, lamb, and pork (also roasts, chops, or steaks) will be safe to eat for around one year.
- Processed pork, like hot dogs, burgers, or lunch meats, will taste fresh for one to two months.
- When it comes to fresh poultry items, the quality of freshness might change a bit. However, it depends on the part of poultry you decide to freeze. Chicken and turkey parts are resistant, and they can taste good even after nine months in the freezer. Full pieces of turkey and chicken are fine to eat between 4 and 12 months. On the other hand, giblets should be stored for shorter periods, around three to four months.
- Fish and shellfish come in multiple sizes and options. Consequently, the period of their quality is different too. Lean fish, for instance, can be frozen for around six months. Fatty fish is not as resistant and will taste fine only for three months. The FDA advises consumers to eat frozen fish only within four to six months. Smoked fish is even more sensitive and maintains its quality just for two months. Lastly, fresh seafood, like squid, shrimps, or scallops, can stay in the freezer and keep their quality for three to six months.
- Leftover meat and cooked goods can be frozen too. Let’s say you are left with a delicious meal and don’t want to throw it away. No worries; you may store it in the freezer as well. The FDA agrees with the idea of keeping cooked meat, gravy, broth, or other meat dishes in the freezer for three months. However, things may change a bit when it comes to cooked poultry. For instance, fried chicken can last safely in the freezer for four months, while cooked poultry dishes stay well in the freezer for six months. Last but not least, chicken nuggets and patties are safe to eat after three months in the freezer.
Again, you should never forget that the longer the freezing time is, the more likely the quality of that meat will decrease. Nevertheless, meat products will still be safe to eat if you do not mind the lack of taste and quality.
However, you should stop consuming the products immediately if you feel any odor or notice an unpleasant appearance. Always consider your health and safety first.
I don’t want to let you go if you still have any questions. That’s why I gathered all the frequently asked questions and answered them. Let’s check them all out.
Q: Can meat ever go bad?
A: Freezing meat is one of the most effective and simple methods to conserve protein sources. Technically speaking, food cannot go bad in the freezer. As the USDA claims: “Freezing keeps food safe almost for good” and suggests that storage times only influence the quality of the meat once it is unfrozen. Therefore, you can keep the old frozen meat even for two years in the freezer. But you should not expect it to taste fresh.
Q: How should you defrost meat safely?
A: Keep in mind that the defrosting process is one of the main reasons meat loses its quality and taste. As the USDA warns us, we should never defrost the meat products on the kitchen counter, outdoors, in the garage, or on the porch. All these methods are unsafe and can damage the quality and consistency of your frozen foods.
The first and safest way to defrost meat is in the refrigerator. Slow defrosting is the best one, so leave the goods in the fridge overnight or over a day or two. Adapt this period to the size of the meat. A quick method relies on using a leak-proof plastic bag. Place the meat inside it and let it sit until it is fully immersed. You can put the bag in cold water for better results.
Another defrosting way is microwaving. However, I do not fully recommend it, as some parts of the food you are defrosting can start the cooking process.
Q: Should I eat freezer burnt meat?
A: Frozen food might develop what is called “freezer burn.” Although it might not seem such an issue, scientists do not recommend eating that meat anymore. It might not taste so well and lose its quality. Yet, you can still save some parts of it. Just make sure you cut the freezer-burned areas off and cook it as soon as possible. Nevertheless, if the meat is heavily freezer-burned, the quality will most likely be fully compromised.
So, Until When Is It Safe To Eat Two years Old Frozen Meat?
While years-old frozen meat is technically safe to eat anytime, its quality might deteriorate after a while in the freezer. The consequences are related to changes in flavor, color, and texture. The meat does remain safe due to the subzero temperatures that prevent bacterial development. However, nothing can guarantee the taste will stay the same.
The bottom line? You should consume meat that has stayed in the freezer for one full year. After that, you may consider tossing it or converting the meat into hamburger patties.