Do you know how our meat products should be safely stored in the fridge or freezer?
- How to ensure raw meat products stay fresh?
- Do I have to freeze fresh meat products as soon as they arrive?
- How to safely defrost frozen poultry and meat?
- Can I refreeze meat once it’s defrosted?
- Why do some products have longer use by dates than others?
- What is the difference between a use by or best before date
In this post we’re going to answer these common questions about food storage to ensure your meat arrives to your plate in perfect condition!
Storing Raw Meat Safely in the Fridge
Raw fresh meat should always be stored in the fridge right up until you are ready to cook it.
The temperature of your fridge should be below 5C, though colder is better. 3C will really slow down the action of any microbes (this is how fridges work), but without freezing your food.
Use a thermometer to check the temperature, and avoid leaving the door open any longer than necessary.
Store meat in the bottom of the fridge – the coldest area. This also means that if any juices leak, they won’t run onto other foods.
It’s usually best to store the meat in its original packaging. If you open the packet, transfer to an air tight, food safe container.
Always make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw meat.
When to Freeze Fresh Meat?
Freezing your meat will extend its shelf-life by 6 months.
You can freeze your meat any day up until the use by date.
Package your meat well before freezing – either vacuum packed, in Tupperware or well wrapped in freezer paper.
Write the date on the packet so later you’ll know how long it’s been in there.
Once defrosted, consume within however many days were left on the use by date when you froze it.
How to safely defrost meat and poultry
There are 4 main ways to defrost your meat, depending upon the cut and the time you have available.
- Defrosting in the fridge
- Defrosting in cold water
- Defrosting in the microwave
- Cooking from frozen
Defrosting in the Fridge
Our preferred way to defrost meat is slowly in the fridge.
Try to plan ahead, and transfer your chosen cut to the fridge 24 hours before you plan to cook it. This will ensure that your meat is thoroughly defrosted, but without risking that it becomes too warm.
(Please note, some very large items such as Turkeys, Geese or very large joints of beef may take longer than 24 hours to defrost in a fridge! See Storage instructions on Turkey product page)
Defrosting in Cold Water
Sadly we’re not always so organised!
If you realise that you forgot to get the dinner out of the freezer last night, you can speed the process up rapidly by defrosting the meat in cold water.
Put the meat in a water tight food bag, and submerge it in a bowl of cold water.
500g to 1kg of meat should take no more than 30 mins.
Larger roasting joints around 2-3 hours.
Defrosting in the Microwave
Our least favourite method, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.
Dinner guests arriving in 10 minutes and you’ve just remembered the steaks are still in the freezer…
This method only really works with smaller pieces of evenly cut meat – steaks, diced, minced etc. Don’t attempt with roasting joints, and most certainly not with a chicken or turkey!
Keep checking and turning or stirring the meat to avoid ending up with patches which are over cooked and others frozen.
Only to be used as a last resort.
Cooking from Frozen
Lots of meat products can actually be cooked directly from frozen.
This works particularly well with minced and diced meat when you’re making stews and curries.
The important thing is to always ensure that your meat is thoroughly cooked all the way through before serving.
Refreezing Defrosted Meat
Contrary to popular belief, it is OK to refreeze meat once it has defrosted, providing it has been defrosted in a fridge, and you are certain that it has not warmed up to temperatures above 5C.
If in doubt, the best option is to cook it, and then re-freeze the cooked dish (or refrigerate for up to 4 days) .
Never put steaming hot food in the fridge or freezer, as this could raise the temperature inside. Don’t leave it out too long to cool either though. A warm dish left out overnight is a perfect breeding ground for microbes!
Portion the food into small containers which will cool more quickly, and put them in the the fridge or freezer within the hour.
Why do some products have longer shelf-lives than others?
Different cuts are more susceptible to spoiling than others.
The more surface area a piece of meat has, the more exposed it is to microbes.
Minced products have the shortest shelf lives, as they have a high surface area, and the cell walls get broken down in the mincing process.
Many producers add lots of chemical preservatives to extend the shelf life, but we prefer not to do this. No rush to eat them though as you can always freeze them for up to 6 months remember!
Note that the mincing also exposes the meat cells to lots of air. It’s not unusual therefore that mince, burgers, sausages and even steaks may go a little greyish. This is just oxidation and is perfectly normal. Again many butchers treat their meat with anti-oxidants to keep them artificially pink, but we prefer to keep things natural.
Cured meats such as our nitrite free bacon and gammon have longer use by dates as the salt slows the action of potentially dangerous microbes. It should still be cooked or frozen before the date on the label however to be on the safe side.
Of all our products, fats have the longest shelf-lives. Tallow, dripping and lard can be stored in the fridge for up to 6 months.
Use by vs Best Before
Most of our products have USE BY dates. This is the date by which you MUST cook the product.
A couple of items such as the Ossa Double Cooked Broth jars have a BEST BEFORE date.
A best before date is the recommended date by which you should consume a product for maximum taste and freshness. It’s still fine to keep the product for longer, it just might lose some flavour.
You should still follow the above rules for storing your food safely in the fridge or freezer for products with a best before date.
Enjoy your Meat and Chicken Safely and with Maximum Freshness
Hopefully you’ve found this information about how to store your meat safely in the fridge or freezer interesting and useful!
If you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
You can find lots more information about our products, services, farms, animals and more at our help and contact page.
You can also find specific info about certain products by clicking on the storage information on the product page tabs.