meat and poultry
There are several advantages for freezing raw meat and poultry:
- minimal preparation,
- quality of the meat is retained longer, as compared to
freezing cooked meat or poultry,
- food budget eased when grocery store specials are used
to stock up on favorite cuts
- pre-portioned and trimmed meats save preparation time
- food is on-hand for last minute changes in meal preparation.
Freezing reduces enzyme activity in meat and poultry and
stops the growth of bacteria and molds. It does not tenderize nor sterilize
Knowing how much meat or poultry to buy depends on several
- available freezer space,
- family needs,
- budget, and
- freezer capacity.
If a large amount of meat is planned for freezing, it is
best to have the market or butcher cut, wrap and freeze it, because slow home
freezing can cause large ice crystals to form in the meat. This process contributes
to freezer burn and causes meat juices to be lost during thawing.
Freeze meat or poultry in portions they will be used; smaller
packages freeze and thaw more rapidly. For quality results, use the following
- Use moisture vapor resistant freezer material.
- Select only fresh, high-quality meats.
- Use spotlessly clean cutting boards and knives when cutting
up meat to freeze.
- Chill meat first; then cut into pieces, as for stew or
- Trim meats of excess fat before freezing; remove bones
and relatively bony pieces to save freezer space. Pad sharp ends of meat or
poultry bones so freezer wrap wont be damaged.
- Use a double layer of waxed paper between chops, ground
meat patties, or chicken pieces so they wont stick together.
- Wrap all cuts closely; eliminate all air if possible.
There are two wrapping techniques: a drugstore fold or a butcher wrap. See
the explanation below.
- After wrapping, pack meat in plastic freezer bags or
other moisture vapor resistant material.
- Label each package, specifying the kind and type of cut,
weight, or number of servings, and the date.
- Freeze at 0°F or below. Be sure to leave space for
air circulation between packages.
Helpful Hints for Freezing
- Do not freeze in the original supermarket plastic wrap.
Discard the tray as well. Neither material is moisture vapor resistant freezer
material; meat or poultry will dry out causing texture, color, and flavor
changes (freezer burn).
- Ground meat can be divided into portions, frozen as is,
or formed into meatballs or patties.
- Cured meats, such as bologna and ham, are best if used
within one to three months. Sliced bacon should be used within one month.
If cured meats are frozen longer, they tend to dry out and taste very salty
freezer storage times for meat
|Ground and stew meat
|Roasts and steaks
|2 to 3 months
|6 to 12 months
|Roasts and chops
|Pork & ham, smoked
|Ham, fully cooked
|1 to 2 months
|3 to 6 months
|1 to 3 months
|1 to 2 months
|Up to 1 month
For a printer-friendly version of this chart,
click on the icon to download.
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Helpful Hints for Freezing
- Poultry can be frozen whole, halved, quartered, or individual
pieces. Plan to use a frozen whole bird within three months since an off
flavor may develop with longer storage.
- Before freezing any poultry, rinse it well in cold water;
pat dry with paper towels.
- To freeze a whole bird, first remove giblets, heart and
liver and freeze these separately in a small plastic freezer bag or moisture
vapor resistant container. Tie the drumsticks together at the tips; press
the wings close to the body or tuck behind the bird. Place each bird in a
plastic freezer bag, or wrap using the drugstore technique. Press out as much
air as possible.
- To freeze poultry pieces, separate the meaty pieces from
the bony ones. Either separate pieces with a double layer of waxed paper or
spread pieces in a single layer on a tray and freeze until solid. Place in
freezer plastic bags. Use within 6 to 12 months.
To Drugstore wrap:
- Use a large sheet of freezer wrap that will allow the
joined edges to fold down two or three times over the foods to be frozen.
- Place meat in the center of the freezer wrap.
- Bring two opposite edges together above the meat and
fold them together; then fold them down, making a 1/2- to 1-inch fold each
- Press out as much air as possible at each end.
- Fold ends down tightly against the package and use freezer
tape to seal.
To Butcher wrap:
- Use a large sheet of freezer wrap that will allow folding
over the meat.
- Place meat close to one corner of the freezer wrap; fold
this corner against the meat.
- Fold ends of wrap over meat.
- Roll package over and over until all wrap has been used.
- Use freezer tape to seal edges.
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University, West Lafayette, Indiana, 47907. All Rights Reserved.