My husband had the uncanny ability to detect when meat has been frozen and then cooked. It has resulted in numerous issues over the years, but it also prompted me to find the best ways for freezing meat I buy in bulk to avoid these unpleasant dining experiences. I typically only freeze chicken, ground beef, and steaks. However, I would suspect you could use these same methods for any type of ground meat or boneless pork.
When freezing meat, air is your enemy. You also want to ensure that the wrapping you use is heavy to keep out air and moisture. Also, be sure to label everything you put in the freezer. You think that you will be able to remember what everything is, but trust me, you will not. Always label with what it is, how much it is, and the date. I also write notes to myself like if it’s butterflied, trimmed, etc. These notes will ensure you don’t end up with a surprise when you thaw it and it wasn’t what you expected.
If you have a vacuum sealer – I am jealous! These methods can be adapted to work with vacuum seal bags. I find that adding the foil really helps maintain the integrity of the meat, but see what works best for you and your tastes.
Ground Beef (or other ground meat)
I purchase ground beef in at least 3 pound packages since the price per pound drops significantly at this point. However, I don’t have enough mouths to feed to use all that up before it goes bad. My solution has a few steps, but it has proven to be effective.
- Divide meat into 1 lb portions. I eyeball it based on the total amount in the package, but a kitchen scale would be very helpful here. You can absolutely freeze it in whatever amount you will use in one recipe.
- Wrap each portion in heavy-duty plastic wrap (I use press-and-seal wrap). Be sure to squeeze all the air out so the wrap is right up against the meat. I freeze it into discs since it’s easier to stack and manipulate later on for thawing. The thinner you make the disc, the faster and more evenly it will thaw.
- Wrap each plastic-wrapped portion in aluminum foil with the side where the plastic-wrap came together on the bottom (against the foil). Again, squeeze all the air out.
- Label with type of meat, amount, and date.
To thaw, remove the foil and set in the fridge overnight. If you’re in a hurry, I thaw it in the microwave (remove the foil first) and use your defrost setting on your microwave or start with 1 minute intervals on 50% power until it’s soft.
Steaks (or pork chops)
I found that steaks at my local club store are cheaper than at the grocery store and look better, too. However, we can’t possibly eat 3-4 huge steaks in a reasonable amount of time. I found that using the method above worked great for steaks and probably would for pork chops or other cuts of meat similar to steaks or chops as well.
- Wrap each steak individually in heavy-duty plastic wrap.
- Wrap the plastic-wrapped steak in foil.
- Label with type of steak (or chop), size (if relevant), and date.
When it comes to chicken, freezer bags are your friend. As long as you take the time to prep the chicken, you should be able to freeze it without issue.
The preparation for boneless chicken is probably the most time-consuming, but it’s well worth it. You will thank yourself later for taking the time to do the prep work in advance when you’re trying to get dinner on the table.
I buy the large economy packs of boneless chicken from the grocery store and prep them all one evening.
- Trim each chicken breast to remove fat, cartilage, skin, etc.
- Butterfly the chicken breast by slicing along the edge and opening it up like a book. I slice all the way through so I have two halves. I only do this for the really big, monster breasts. Smaller breasts won’t butterfly well.
- Place both halves of the breast into quart-size freezer bags so they are side-by-side (don’t stack them). You can place more chicken in a larger bag, but be sure there is enough room so they can lay flat in one layer.
- Label the bags with the number of chicken breasts, if they are butterflied, and the date.
You can also dice up chicken or cut into strips and use the same method for freezing.
To thaw, you should place in the fridge for a few hours. By laying them in one layer, they will thaw faster and more evenly. You can also thaw in the microwave, but be careful because it happens fast.
This is a must more durable chicken and can be frozen more easily than boneless. I freeze in gallon sized freezer bags in the quantity I plan to use for each meal.
When bone-in chicken goes on sale, I buy a bunch and roast it in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour. I allow to cool and then shred the meat off the bones. I then portion into about 1 pound quantities and freeze in quart-sized freezer bags. I label them accordingly and freeze. These bags work out great for recipes that require cooked chicken. Just pop in the microwave for about 30-60 seconds and you’re ready to use it.
What methods do you have for freezing meat? I’d love to hear some different ideas.