Learning how to freeze meat is a simple way to save money on your grocery bill. While there are very few coupons for meat it goes on sale very often. You can take the option of simply working your meals around what cut of meat is on sale that week but there is an easy method to greatly prolong the storage life of meat. With minimal preparation you can extend the life of a steak from four days in the refrigerator to four months in the freezer. Being able to stock up on a cut of meat at cheap prices lets you live off your stockpile of meat until another good sale comes along.
How Freezing Works
Just a quick note on how freezing effects meat will help understand the reason for doing all the meat preparation before freezing. All cuts of meat are in a state of decay since there is no longer blood pumping through them. This is why they only stay fresh in the refrigerator a few days despite the cool temperature. The cool air slows the decaying process. Freezing the meat slows that decay drastically but it does not stop it completely. Simply throwing a cut of meat into your freezer will keep it from spoiling but will suffer from freezer burn if it is not properly wrapped. Freezer burn is what happens when the moisture in the meat comes into contact with cold air and makes ice crystals. The freeze burned sections of food are still edible but have been completely dehydrated which makes for a very tough piece of meat.
Preparing the Meat for Freezing
The first step in preparing meat for freezing is to trim off the fat. Fat goes rancid faster than meat which could effect the entire cut of meat. This is typically no big loss as the diner would likely just trim it themself when it is on their plate. By trimming off excess fat before you freeze it you can give your steaks and chops an extra month or so of useable life in the freezer.
Credit: Wikimedia.orgThe next step is determining the portion size. If you buy a package of four steaks each weighing one pound, than it doesn't make sense to freeze them all together if you are not going to eat them in one serving. Figure out how much meat you or your family would eat at each meal and divide the meat into piles. This helps prevent multiple freezings which break down the meat on a cellular level. If you are freezing a group of smaller items, like pork chops, putting a piece of wax paper between each chop will let you easily separate the meat when it comes time to thaw and cook.
Packaging the Meat
Now that the meat has been trimmed and divided up it is time to wrap. The idea is to have no contact with the air to prevent freezer burn. Wrapping comes in three steps.
- Remove the meat from any store packaging. The packaging they use is not meant for long-term freezing.
- Wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap.
- Tightly wrap the plastic wrap covered meat with aluminum foil. Once you have it tightly wrapped you should make a note of what is inside and the date of freezing. You can write it on a piece of masking tape or a sticky note.
Now We Freeze
Tossing your sealed meat into the refrigerator overnight first will get the meat as cold as you can before freezing. Ideally you want the meat to freeze quickly to have the ice crystals formed be as small as possible. Large ice crystals break down cell walls and make for a less juicy cut of meat when it comes time to cook. Properly prepared and packaged meat can last for months in the freezer with very little loss of flavor or texture. As you can see, the process of how to freeze meat is very simple but the potential savings are huge. Take advantage of sales and stock up on your favorite steaks and chops so you can simply shop out of your freezer later.