Things don't always go according to plan, and you may have a meal kit that you're not ready to use before it goes bad. Can you freeze the meat included in a HelloFresh meal kit for later? We've researched this issue, and here's the deal:
You can freeze meat from HelloFresh! Store the meat in the refrigerator until you freeze it and do so within 3 to 4 days. The meat will remain safe as long as it is kept below 0º Fahrenheit, but the quality may diminish over time.
In this article, you'll learn more about freezing meat, whether from HelloFresh or the store. You'll learn how to freeze and thaw meat safely, how long to keep it in the freezer, and more. Read on to learn all about it!
How to Freeze Meat in Meal Kits Safely
Home-delivered meal kits are a convenient way to get the food you need. One of the big advantages they offer is that they can reduce food waste. However, there may be times when you want to save some of your ingredients for later. In that case, you may want to freeze the meat or other foods to extend their shelf-life.
Fortunately, it's easy to freeze meat. First, you'll want to keep it in an air-tight container. This will help protect the meat from freezer burn, preserving the quality of the meat.
The meat in meal kits will usually already be in a sealed package, so if you haven't opened it, you can simply chuck it in the freezer. If you have opened it, you can put it in a zip-top bag or use a vacuum sealer for a truly air-tight seal.
Once sealed, the meat can simply be kept in the freezer until it is needed!
Safety Precautions When Freezing Meat
According to the USDA, meat and other foods will stay safe in perpetuity as long as it is kept below 0º Fahrenheit. This is because any bacteria, mold, or other trouble-makers will go dormant at this temperature, so they cannot spoil your meat.
However, you must make sure the meat was properly stored before freezing it too. This means the meat should be kept chilled before being frozen. The meat may not be safe if it has been left between 40 and 90º Fahrenheit for two hours or between 90º and 140º Fahrenheit for 1 hour.
Freezing will keep safe meat safe, but it will not make unsafe meat safe again.
Does freezing kill bacteria?
There's a common misconception that bacteria, mold, or other problematic critters die when frozen. This, however, is rarely the case.
Instead, freezing to 0º Fahrenheit or colder causes most microorganisms to go dormant. However, if the temperature rises, these baddies will wake up and get back to their work of ruining your food.
Some microorganisms, like trichina, can be killed with sub-zero freezing. However, you can't accomplish this in the standard home freezer.
Can You Freeze Cooked Meat?
We've seen how to freeze meat in your HelloFresh kit before you cook it, but what about cooked meat? Is it safe to freeze leftover meat that has already been cooked?
The answer to this is, yes! Absolutely! Simply put any leftover meat in an air-tight container and throw it in the freezer.
You'll want to let the meat cool down a little bit before you freeze it. There are a few reasons for this.
First, it will simply be easier to handle. Next, if the meat is still steaming, that steam will condense and form ice in the freezer, which can lead to freezer burn. Lastly, if the meat is too hot, it may raise the temperature of your freezer temporarily.
However, don't leave the meat out to cool too long before freezing. This is because it will be in the danger zone of 40º - 140º Fahrenheit, the temperatures where bacteria grow most prolifically. You should freeze the meat within an hour of cooking it for safety.
How to Thaw Frozen Meat Safely
Freezing meat, whether raw or cooked, is relatively easy and only requires minimal safety precautions. But how should you defrost your frozen food when you're ready to use it?
There are several ways to safely defrost frozen meat. The most hands-off approach is to move the frozen meat to the refrigerator in advance. For the portions of meat included in most meal kits, 24 hours in the refrigerator should be plenty of time to thaw it. However, for larger meats, such as a whole turkey, it can take two or more days.
If you want to defrost your meat faster, you have two options: submerging it in cold water or using the defrost function on your microwave.
The cold water method should only be used with tightly sealed meat. Any holes in the packaging can allow unwanted bacteria to enter and contaminate the meat.
To use this method, put the vacuum-sealed meat into a bowl of cold water, making sure it is entirely covered by the water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the meat has thawed. In general, this method takes about an hour per pound of meat to defrost.
If you're pressed for time, you can also defrost your meat in a microwave. Most microwaves these days have a defrost setting that can be used for this purpose. The amount of time required will depend on the weight of the meat as well as your specific microwave model, so follow the manufacturer's instructions for best results.
Safety Precautions for Thawed Meat
Meat that is thawed in the refrigerator can be kept there for a short time after it has been thawed. Ground meat, poultry, and seafood can be kept in the fridge for another day or two after thawing, and red meat can be kept for another three to four days. You can safely refreeze it as well.
If you thaw your meat with the microwave or cold water method, you must cook it immediately. You shouldn't refreeze this meat while it is raw, although you can freeze it again after cooking it.
How Long Can You Freeze HelloFresh Meat?
If you followed our safety precautions for freezing your meat from HelloFresh (or any other seller), it will stay safe indefinitely as long as it is kept under 0º Fahrenheit. This means that you can thaw it at any time and it will be safe to eat.
But should you? Safety issues aside, the quality of meat still deteriorates over time. Even in a perfectly vacuum-sealed package, cuts of meat will suffer freezer burn over time, leaving them dry and tough when cooked.
This is why it's generally best to store meat in the freezer for only a few months. The exact amount of time depends on the type of meat.
For example, FoodSafety.gov recommends keeping ground meat frozen for 3 to 4 months. Whole poultry, on the other hand, can maintain its quality after freezing for up to a year.
Is It Safe to Eat Meat with Freezer Burn?
If your frozen meat has been left in the freezer for a long time or wasn't fully sealed, it is likely to suffer from freezer burn.
On the bright side, freezer-burnt meat is still safe to eat as long as it was kept under 0º Fahrenheit consistently. However, it's not exactly a pleasurable experience.
Freezer-burnt meat is typically dry and tough. It also typically has an oxidized taste. However, if you're in the waste-not, want-not camp, you may still be able to salvage freezer-burnt meat. To some extent.
How to fix freezer-burnt meat
The first step to making use of your freezer-burnt meat is to adjust your expectations; once meat has suffered freezer burn, it's never going to be as good as new. But that doesn't mean you can't use it to make tasty food.
First, if possible, we recommend cutting off the outer layers of the meat. Freezer burn affects the surface of the meat more than anywhere else, so discarding this part will get rid of the worst parts.
This is easiest to do if the meat is still partially frozen, but it depends on the kind of meat you have as well. You can also cut away freezer-burnt parts after cooking.
The next thing you can do is brine or marinate the meat. Brining involves keeping the meat in salty water, typically overnight. This can help rehydrate the meat as well as add some seasoning to it.
Marinades are typically shorter than brines. They also usually involve using an acidic ingredient and other flavorings. Marinades are not as effective at rehydrating meat, but the extra flavor they add can hide some damage.
Speaking of, you're best off using freezer-burnt meat in very flavorful dishes with lots of spices and other flavors. Think chili, curry, or stir-fry.
If you just cook up freezer-burnt meat with salt and pepper, any issues with flavor and texture will have nowhere to hide. Save those kinds of dishes for fresh meat.
If you can't use the meat included in your meal kit right away, don't worry; you can safely freeze it and save it for later. Just make sure you follow the food safety precautions we've outlined when freezing and thawing the meat, and you'll be good to go!
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