One day I was preparing to cook my favorite recipe. To my surprise, I totally forgot meat which is the main ingredient. Funny, right?
So I opened the freezer and found a pack of meat that was frozen for too long. Maybe more than two years in the freezer.
This may sound impossible but there are people who often forget the frozen goods in the freezer. That includes me.
If you were in the same situation, you might be wondering whether it is safe to cook the meat that was in the freezer for too long.
So, is it safe to eat 2 year-old frozen meat?
The meat is safe in the freezer as long as the temperature is kept at 0 or below. Assuming that no power outage happened all throughout, it is still safe to eat 2-year-old frozen meat.
As you can see, freezing is the best way to store meat and keep it usable for future recipes. If you buy meat in bulk, you need to make sure that the freezer is reliable enough to maintain a good freezing temperature.
Power outage is also one thing to consider. The constant fluctuation of electricity can deteriorate the freshness of the meat and therefore it cannot last long.
How Long Can You Safely Freeze Meat?
The good thing about freezing is that you can preserve the meat indefinitely. However, it is important to note that the flavor and texture of the meat may not be the same. The longer it is freezing, the lesser the quality of the meat.
Amazingly, the meat remains safe because the subzero temperature prevents bacterial growth which prevents the meat from spoiling.
It is important to remember though that not all meats are created equal. What I mean by this is that the length of time the meat can be stored in the freezer depends on its type.
Chicken, for instance, can last for about 9-12 months as long as the temperature in the freezer is kept at subzero.
Ground meat on the other hand can last in the freezer for about 3-4 months. While red meat can last up to 4-12 months in the freezer.
Frozen goods usually have shorter life in the freezer. Bacon and sausages can only last for about 1-2 months in the freezer.
Again, the longer the time the meat is frozen, the more likely the quality of the meat decreases. Nonetheless, it is still safe for consumption.
However, if the meat has off odor and unpleasant appearance, then maybe it is safer to discard it. Always consider your safety.
Related: How Long Can Frozen Chicken Sit Out?
How to Freeze Meat Correctly?
The length of time that the meat survives in the freezer is determined by the way the meat is stored. Storing the meat incorrectly may only result in freezer burn.
This happens when the meat is not properly wrapped. This is easy to avoid though. What you need to do is to wrap the meat with a plastic wrapper.
I recommend that you double the wrapping and make sure that they tightly covered the meat.
Finally, on top of the plastic wrappings, wrap it with aluminum foil then put it in the sealable bag. I always use the vacuum-sealable bag to make sure that the meat is safe from freezer burn.
In some instances, you can use containers. But if you want to freeze the meat long-term, containers do not usually offer good protection from freezer burn. A freezer bag is always a good option.
How to Thaw Frozen Meat?
If the frozen meat has just come out of the freezer, obviously you need to thaw it first before you can cook it. If you are new to this, you might be wondering how to thaw frozen meat correctly.
Well, there are many ways to thaw a frozen meat. Here are the some of the easy and quick tips:
1. Thawing in the Fridge
The first and the safest one is thawing in the fridge. You can just transfer the frozen meat into the fridge several hours before the cooking time.
This requires planning, however. This is perfect if you will use the meat for the following day. Also, this works well if you are thawing bigger meat. A day or two may be enough for the whole meat (turkey) to thaw in the freezer.
2. Thaw in Cold Water
The other thawing method you can try is the use of cold water. If you want a quicker thawing method, this one can be perfect for you.
All you need to do is to submerge the frozen meat in the cold water. Just make sure that you change the cold water every now and then. The main purpose is to keep the water cold.
3. Thaw in the Microwave
If you are out of time and need to thaw meat quickly, the best way is to do it is in the microwave. Most of the microwaves come with defrost function. You can easily set the time and thaw the meat quickly.
The only drawback of this method is that the outer part of the meat can be cooked during the thawing process. This is the main reason why thawing this way is not popular. Most people (this may include you) do not like to partially cook the surface of the meat.
If you want to try this thawing method, make sure to read and follow the instructions of the microwave. It will help you do the thawing successfully.
My last recommendation is that the thawed meat should be cooked right away.
4. Thaw in Running Tap Water
The last thawing technique that I can share with you is the use of running tap water. This may be the simplest one.
You can place the frozen meat in the running tap water and wait until the meat is totally thawed.
I cannot tell you which of these techniques you should pick. It is up to you what you want. Sometimes, it depends on the availability of the materials needed and your preference.
Can You Thaw Frozen Meat at Room Temperature?
Technically, you can thaw frozen meat at room temperature. You can just leave it on the counter top.
However, thawing like this is not a good idea and I do not recommend it. The reason for this is that meat can be easily contaminated at room temperature.
The bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature which will, in turn, produce toxins. This happens especially if the meat is thawed this way for more than 2 hours.
For safer results, I suggest that you pick one of the techniques shared in this post instead.
Related: How to Tell If Frozen Meat Is Bad?
Is It Necessary to Immediately Cook the Meat After Thawing?
Once the frozen meat is thawed, cook it immediately. There is no reason to keep the meat at room temperature for too long. It will not be healthy for the meat. It can only lead to spoilage due to the fast-growing bacteria and other pathogens.
Can You Refreeze Thawed Meat?
Yes, you can refreeze thawed meat. Especially if it is done in the fridge. However, you should be aware that there will be texture and flavor changes in the meat. The good news is that the meat is still safe to consume.
If the meat is thawed at room temperature, make sure that you do not leave it for too long. The meat is only safe within two hours at room temperature. Longer than that the meat may not be safe anymore.
The main reason for this is that bacterial growth happens pretty quickly which will contaminate the meat. Thawing in the fridge might be the safest way to go.
Does Freezing the Meat Kill the Bacteria?
Freezing does not necessarily kill bacteria but it restrains bacterial growth. This is the reason why frozen goods last long in the freezer as long as the temperature is maintained at freezing point.
If there is a power outage, check the temperature in your freezer and frozen goods in it. If the power outage lasts for hours, it is a good idea to consume the frozen meats to prevent them from spoiling.
Is Frozen Meat Less Nutritious than Fresh Meat?
Frozen meat is as nutritious as the fresh one. This is because freezing keeps the nutritional content of the meat.
Some people believe that once the meat is frozen it loses its nutritional value. But it is not true at all. You can keep the meat in the freezer and still enjoy its nutritional benefits.
Most meat can last indefinitely in the freezer as long as the temperature is kept at a freezing point. However, it is possible that the meat shows flavor and texture changes.
Is it safe to eat 2-year-old frozen meat? 2-year-old frozen meat is still safe to eat as long as it is kept at a consistent freezing temperature. If there is a long outage, cooking the meat immediately is always the best idea. This is to avoid it from getting spoiled.