Forgot meat at the bottom of your freezer? You have just found it but you realize that it has been frozen for years? The famous question then comes to you: can we eat meat frozen for 1 year, 2 years or more? Although the answer is rather favorable, it must be nuanced. Indeed, in addition to risking an alteration of the properties of the meat, certain precautions must be observed to avoid a risk of food poisoning.
So, without further ado, discover in this article the freezing and thawing rules to follow to safely eat meat that has been frozen for several years.
Can we eat meat that has been frozen for several years?
Know now that you can eat meat frozen for 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years or even more, although it is not advisable to do so for several reasons. Discover the explanations below, as well as the recommended freezing times for each meat.
Why is it not advisable to eat meat that has been frozen for several years?
Theoretically, all foods can be stored in the freezer indefinitely without health risk since freezing stops the development of bacteria. That is why, raw or cooked meat that has been frozen for several years remains safe to eat and does not pose a risk of food poisoning if certain storage precautions are taken as we will see in the second part of the article.
However, the longer the meat is frozen, the more it will tend to lose its properties. By freezing meat for several years, you risk seeing its taste, texture and nutritional values altered.. This is explained because freezing stops the development of bacteria but it does not stop enzymatic reactions and therefore food degradation. This is why the longer you wait, the more the meat will continue to deteriorate, even when frozen!
To reduce this phenomenon as much as possible and therefore preserve the properties of the meat as much as possible, it is best to freeze the meat the same day it is purchased and put it in an airtight bag, expelling the air as much as possible to limit the formation of ice crystals which accentuates the degradation of the food during defrosting.
In summary, it is possible to eat meat frozen for 1 year, 2 years or more without health risk if the storage conditions are optimal, however, despite everything, its properties will probably be altered.
Read also: Can we eat fish frozen for several years?
What is the ideal shelf life of meat in the freezer?
Now that you know that you can eat meat frozen for 1 or 2 years, although it may lose its flavor and texture, the question that comes next quite naturally is: Ideally, how long can you keep meat in the freezer?
The meat keeps very well in the freezer for several months before starting to suffer an alteration in its properties. So here it is the ideal shelf life in the freezer according to the type of meat :
- Lamb or veal: 8 months
- Beef: 4 months
- Ground beef: 3 months.
- Poultry meat (chicken and turkey): 6 months
- Pork: 6 months
- Ham/charcuterie/sausage: 2 months
- Game meat: 8 months
- Cooked meat: 2 to 3 months
These times are given as an indication. Note that they may vary depending on the precise nature of the frozen meat, but also on its packaging :
- If the meat is wrapped in waxed butcher paper, polystyrene or loose plastic, it is not sealed tight. It is therefore advisable to leave it for a maximum of 2 months in the freezer.
- If the meat is stored in an airtight freezer bag and you were therefore able to expel the air before closing it, it is advisable to consume it no more than 6 months after putting it in the freezer.
- If the meat is vacuum-packed, it has the best preservation conditions. You can then leave it for 12 months in the freezer without it undergoing any alteration.
In any case, note that the sooner you eat the meat after freezing it, the less likely you are to see it lose its original taste and texture.
How to properly defrost meat that has been frozen for 1 or 2 years?
As we have just seen, it is possible to consume meat frozen for 1 year, 2 years or more, although its properties may be altered. Also be aware that to ensure that it is still edible and therefore avoid risk of food poisoning, it must be stored in good freezing conditions and you must take certain precautions when defrosting.
So, without further ado, discover the elements to respect for a risk-free defrosting of meat.
Meat Freezing Precautions
1 – Never refreeze meat that has already been frozen. Of course, this is the most important rule for avoiding potentially serious food poisoning from bacterial growth that accelerates upon thawing. To know more : why shouldn't you refreeze thawed food?
Be careful because when you eat meat that has been frozen for 1 or 2 years, you increase the risk that your freezer has defrosted due to a breakdown, without you even realizing it. To avoid this, implement a trick to make sure your freezer has never thawed. For example, placing the ice cube tray upside down.
2 - Do not eat expired frozen meat. Indeed, the pathogenic bacteria which will have started to develop after the expiry date, will multiply much more quickly during defrosting. You then increase the risk of food poisoning.
3 – To eat meat that has been frozen for several months or several years, the temperature of your freezer will have to be between -18°C and -24°C. Indeed, freezing does not destroy the bacteria present in the meat, it only stops their development when the temperature reaches extreme negative temperatures.
Precautions for defrosting meat to be observed
1 – How to consume meat that has been frozen for several years?
Meat frozen for 1 year, 2 years or more must be eaten cooked through because bacteria grow rapidly in meat after defrosting. Cooking destroys many pathogenic bacteria. As you will have understood, do not make tartare with minced meat that has been frozen for several months.
2 – How long after defrosting can the meat be eaten?
Once the meat is thawed, consume it maximum within 48 hours which follow by having placed it in the refrigerator as soon as it comes out of the freezer. If after thawing the meat has remained more than 2 hours at room temperature, discard it.
Count about 10 hours of defrosting in the refrigerator (of course this data varies according to the type, size and thickness of the meat). For faster defrosting, place the meat in an airtight bag. Then slip it into cold water. Count about 1 hour of defrosting by changing the water regularly. Avoid defrosting at room temperature or in hot water, which both accelerates bacterial growth and promotes the deterioration of the food.
3 – How do you know if defrosted meat is still good?
When you want to eat meat that has been frozen for 1 or 2 years, the question that arises when defrosting is: is the meat still safe? The best way to find out is to wait for it to thaw, thenexamine and smell the meat.
If it has a strange smell (ammonia, sour, musty), a viscous or sticky texture, a very gray color, it is best to throw it away to avoid any risk of potentially serious food poisoning. Note that meat may change color when frozen. Poultry meat may turn yellow, pork may turn more pinkish gray, and red meat more purple. Also note that beef after defrosting may have darkened slightly.
Read also: How do you know if the meat is still good?