Save time, money and effort with our tips on storing and freezing lamb. Whether its cooked leftovers from a Sunday Roast or fresh from the butcher make sure you wrap, store and defrost your meat safely.
Freezing uncooked meat
Depending on the cut, uncooked meat can be stored up to 6 months in the freezer. Larger cuts, like steaks and roasts, can be safely stored for up to 6 months. Smaller cuts, such as steaks, should not be frozen for more than 4 months, and minced meat should not be frozen for more than 3 months.
Freezing cooked meat
Freezer storage times for cooked meats are shorter than raw meat due to what's known as flavour taint. Certain flavours oxidise in the freezer after a period of time. If frozen meat has defrosted, refreezing is not recommended unless it is cooked first, for a number of reasons:
The quality suffers each time frozen meat is defrosted and refrozen. Freezing creates ice crystals within the structure of the meat (as meat contains a high percentage of water). These ice crystals rupture the fibre which causes the meat to bleed when defrosted. If repeated, the texture of the meat will be very dry.
Never refreeze meat which has been thawed and held at room temperature.
Storing Meat in a fridge or freezer
Plastic will make the meat sweat. Remove meat from its plastic as soon as possible after buying and store in the fridge. Raw and cooked meat should be stored separately.
How long can meat be stored?
Fresh meat will keep 3 - 5 days in the fridge. Cooked meat 5 - 7 days. Once frozen, properly sealed meat should keep for up to 3-4 months.
In the refrigerator: Plan ahead as this is the slowest thawing technique. Small frozen items may thaw overnight in the refrigerator, while larger items will take significantly longer.
In a microwave on the defrost setting: Plan to cook the food immediately after it has thawed in a microwave, because some areas of the food may have begun cooking during the defrost cycle.
Meat should not be thawed at room temperature on the kitchen counter. Meat that has been thawed in the fridge will keep for a few days. Meat thawed more quickly should be used immediately. Thawed meat should not be re-frozen in it's uncooked state.
Ensure you eat any defrosted meat within 24 hours.
Never be tempted to refreeze meat once defrosted, only if it has since been cooked. When food is thawed bacteria can mulitply quickly, particularly at room temperature. Defrosting say mince then making a chilli with it then freezing the chilli will be fine as bacteria will have been killed off in the cooking process.
Additional Helpful Tips;
- The more stocked your freezer is the less energy it will use as the items will keep eachother cold. Do not overpack your freezer however as air needs to circulate around it to keep everything cool.
- Store raw meat and poultry in sealed containers on the bottom shelf of the freezer so if your freezer was to accidently defrost any juices will not drip into drawers below.
- Certain items can be cooked from frozen making them great ‘emergency meals’. When cooking food from frozen, use a lower temperature to start with to thaw, then increase the temperature to cook. Most liquid based dishes are suitable for cooking from frozen including casseroles, soups and stews.
- Ensure to freeze food in portions rather than one block – this can save money as you won’t always need to feed the whole family. Freeze meat in meal size portions, label the kind of meat it is, the amount in the package and the date it was frozen.