Finding expensive cuts of meat on sale at the butcher or grocery store is a boon. Storing those extra slabs of ribs, thick steaks or whole birds in the freezer can offer feasts throughout the year at a low cost.
However, sometimes those wrapped rib eyes get lost in the cavernous compartment as they jostle with the daily items that are fished in and out of the freezer. Is it safe to eat meat that has sat in a freezer a year or 10 years? Taking a few extra steps can ensure that you don't wind up with freezer burn on the meat.
Safely Storing Meat to Freeze
The United States Department of Agriculture notes that food, whether a favored saucy pasta dish or hearty cut of meat, stored at zero degrees Fahrenheit is safe to eat. The problem is that freezer burn on meat can begin as soon as a month in the freezer if it's not stored correctly. If the freezer ever loses that 0-degree safe zone and rises in temperature, meat can begin to spoil.
Always remove the meat from the prepackaged plastic and Styrofoam trays before placing it in the freezer unless you plan to cook the meat within the next few days. The packaging from the butcher or grocery store is permeable and will cause freezer burn on the meat sooner than later. The dry air inside of the freezer will pull moisture from the meat and create oxidation the longer it stays in the chilly compartment.
Cooking Light recommends wrapping meat meant for the freezer in wax paper. Wrapping the blocks of meat with a layer of aluminum foil isn't necessary, but it does add an extra layer from the harsh environment of the freezer. If the meat is beginning to turn bad or is already well past its expiration date, it's not a good idea to freeze it for later consumption.
Frozen Meat Expiration Chart Online
Knowing when the chicken fricassee is about to reach its expiration date in the freezer or if the spinach-stuffed pork chops should even make a trip to the frozen compartment can ensure you're consuming edibles that are safe to eat. A frozen meat expiration chart can break down the amount of time dishes and cuts of meat can safely stay tucked away in the freezer.
The Food & Drug Administration offers a frozen meat expiration chart online. This chart also includes the amount of time that fresh food is safe to eat when stored in the refrigerator. Move foods that are reaching their expiration date to the freezer and mark the container with the expiration date suggested by the FDA.
Generally, processed meats, such as hot dogs and lunch meats, can last a month or two, while whole turkeys, chickens and thick steaks can last up to a year. A well-wrapped or stored piece of meat can handle a lengthy stay in the freezer compartment, but too long, such as 10-year-old frozen meat, can have an acrid taste due to freezer burn. Meat that has sat in a freezer that long may have been subjected to temperature fluctuations, which could mean that it's been exposed to bacteria.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.