With the high cost of meats, it makes sense to buy large quantities on sale to store in the freezer for later use. Proper freezing is of utmost importance to ensure that the meat retains its quality and flavor, with no off tastes or freezer burn. Meat can remain in store packaging, but it should be wrapped over or placed into freezer bags as well. It can also be frozen in airtight plastic containers. Once meat is set out to defrost, it can be refrozen if it still contains ice crystals. If the meat has thawed to the point where no ice is present, it should be cooked.
Beef in particular freezes well and will last quite a while without sacrificing flavor. Just how long it can be frozen depends on the individual cut and size of the beef. For example, roasts last the longest, up to 12 months when properly wrapped. Optimally, they should be used within six months. Stew and variety cuts are next on the list, lasting around 3 or 4 months. Ground beef will be in good shape for 3 months. Beef that has already been cooked, and corned beef, do not freeze as well and their texture tends to suffer. These should be frozen for no more than 2 months. The faster the beef is frozen, the better the flavor will be. Therefore, the freezer should be turned up to it’s coldest setting prior to adding unfrozen beef. After it is completely frozen, the temperature can be turned down, but should be no higher than 0 degrees. Uncooked beef that is normally red in color may turn to varying shades of brown when frozen. This does not impair the quality or taste of the beef.
Pork does not keep as long as beef in the freezer. Like beef, it is best to flash freeze pork. Larger cuts also tend to keep longer than smaller cuts such as chops. Pork roasts will keep for up to 8 months when well wrapped. Chops and ground pork should be frozen for no more than 4 months. This does not include sausage, however, which should be frozen for no more than a month or so. Processed pork, such as bacon, ham and deli cuts, do not freeze very well and should not be frozen for much more than a month. They tend to get watery when thawed.
Chicken freezes extremely well and keeps for a fairly long time when properly frozen. Freezing chicken parts individually helps to speed along the freezing process. This also makes defrosting much simpler when only a few pieces are needed, as frozen chicken can take a long time to defrost. Whole uncooked chicken can be stored in the freezer for up to one year. Chicken parts should be frozen for no more than 9 months. As with ground beef, ground chicken does not take to freezing as well as whole parts, and should be used within 3 or 4 months. Once cooked ground chicken is frozen, it should be defrosted and used within a month. Cooked chicken pieces need to be used within 4 months.
In case of a power outage, meat will usually stay frozen for at least two days if the freezer has been unopened. Covering the freezer with a heavy blanket will help to insulate it, and will help slow thawing.