Use these guidelines to safely store meat and poultry while preventing freezer burn.
1. Make sure your freezer is at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit. If your freezer does not have a thermometer, go to your local hardware store and purchase one. Foods not stored under zero degrees will not retain the same nutritional value and flavor once they are thawed.
2. While it is safe to freeze your meat in the supermarket packaging, this packaging does not provide an adequately tight seal and leaves it exposed to the air already inside the package. If you do freeze meat wrapped in supermarket packaging, it will retain its quality for one to two months. By rewrapping, however, you can extend shelf life by up to a year.
3. You should freeze meat that is already cold, rather than at room temperature, as the quicker the meat is frozen, the less susceptible it is damage and freezer burn. Once your meat is sufficiently cooled in the refrigerator, remove it from the supermarket packaging and pat it dry with paper towels.
4. The key to safely freezing meat is to wrap it tightly with as little air trapped with the meat as possible. First, wrap the meat in Saran Wrap or generic plastic wrap. Make sure the entire surface of the meat is covered. Then, add a second layer of plastic wrap to prevent any air from coming in contact with the meat while it is in the freezer. If you are freezing a particularly large piece of meat, you may need several pieces of plastic wrap to completely cover the meat.
5. After wrapping the meat tightly in plastic wrap, you should wrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil two or three times. With each layer you should be able to form a tight seal around the edges of the meat.
6. With a magic marker or Sharpie, record the type of meat you are freezing (steaks, chicken parts, pork chops) and the date on which you are freezing it. Uncooked beef and pork can be frozen for up to a year, while ground meat loses quality after a few months. Meat frozen for more extended periods of time remain safe to eat, provided the freezer remains below zero degrees Fahrenheit, but may suffer in taste and texture.
7. Finally, meat is defrosted optimally in the refrigerator. The time to defrost varies from between 8 and 12 hours per pound. If meat needs to be defrosted more quickly, the safest method is run cold water over the meat. Using this method, meat can be safely defrosted as quickly as 20 minutes per pound.