What is the best way to freeze meat? We all grab an extra package of ground beef or some chicken breasts for that day when we want protein for dinner but all we have is a box of pasta and some Prego tomato sauce. Toss the meat in the freezer for a rainy day, right?
Well, sometimes the meat will go bad, or freezer burn will get to the steak before we can. Or some freeze jobs seem to damage meats worse than others, leaving us with a texture terribly far from the original quality of the meat.
There are better ways to freeze meat to reduce texture damage and to prolong its freezer shelf life.
The faster the meat freezes, the better. Put your freezer at its coldest setting, divide meat up into the smallest workable pieces, and freeze it unwrapped until solidified. Then wrap as tightly as possible with plastic wrap.
A quick freezing reduces the size of the ice crystals, and smaller ice crystals mean less damage to the protein cell membranes. Reduce this cell damage= keep better meat texture.
Even with rapid freezing and proper wrapping, meat will oxidize, noticeably decline in flavor, and eventually spoil. Here's a short chart with the approximate time that it will take for quality to decline significantly.
Ground beef, cooked meat: 1 month
Fresh fish and poultry: 1-2 months
Pork: 6 months
Lamb and Veal: 9 months
Beef: about 1 year
*from my new bible, Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen," 2004, Scribner.