how long does beef last in a freezer

Cold Food Storage Chart

Food
Type
Freezer [0°F (-18°C) or below]
Fresh beef, veal, lamb, and pork
Chops
4 to 12 months
Roasts
4 to 12 months
Ham
Fresh, uncured, uncooked
6 months
Fresh, uncured, cooked
3 to 4 months

From chicken to pork and more, here is our guide on when to toss these items out.

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Hosting a backyard bash full of flavorful grilling recipes or throwing together a hearty family dinner can be a cinch if you’ve got protein options in your freezer. Plus, buying meat in bulk and freezing some for later = major savings. But if that ribeye has been in your freezer for a while, you might be wondering: How long does frozen meat last?

According to the USDA, frozen foods are safe to eat indefinitely. But just because something is ok to consume doesn’t mean it will still taste delicious after years in a deep freeze. Here’s how it works: Zero-degree temps (and below) inactivate any bacteria, yeasts or molds and prevent harmful microorganisms from growing. Frozen foods, however, will decrease in quality (think: taste, texture, color, etc.) over time, especially if they are loosely wrapped or frozen slowly. So while you won’t get sick from your months-old frozen steak, it might not make for the juiciest cut.

We put together guidelines based on recommendations from the FDA for how long to store all types of meat in the freezer. And when it comes time to thaw that prized piece, be sure to defrost meat safely for the healthiest — and tastiest — result.

*The graphic above illustrates our Chief Food Directors professional opinion on frozen meat quality over time, which may suggest shorter freezing time than the FDAs recommended time outlined below.

What Is the Best Way to Safely Thaw Frozen Meat?

Thawing meat out on the kitchen counter is a big no-no. Meat that is left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour in the summer) can quickly grow dangerous bacteria.

The three safe ways to undergo “The Big Thaw” are in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.

What Is the Best Way to Package Meat For Freezing?

The most important thing to keep in mind when packaging meat for the freezer is that air is the enemy. You want as little air in your packaging as possible, because that’s what ultimately causes freezer burn!

If your meat comes in a vacuum-sealed package, you can successfully freeze it as-is. Styrofoam trays aren’t as airtight, so you can either over-wrap them in tight plastic wrap or repackage their contents by wrapping them in plastic and placing them inside a freezer bag.

Previously cooked meat can also be frozen in a freezer bag or a freezer-safe container. Make sure to squeeze out as much air as possible before you zip it up, and label what is cooked and what is fresh. Ground meat in particular can be hard to identify between raw and cooked after it’s frozen.

When you put your packages in the freezer, you want them to freeze as quickly as possible to prevent the growth of ice crystals which will damage the texture. Lay the items flat and don’t stack them until they’re solid. Ideally, you would freeze your meat in a stand-alone freezer that isn’t opened often. The more often you open your freezer, the more likely you are to lose temperature.

THAWING FROZEN MEAT IN COLD WATER

Thawing meat in cold water is faster than in the refrigerator, and the cool temperature prevents rapid bacteria growth. In most cases, 3-4 pound packages will take around two to three hours to cold-water thaw, and larger items, such as a whole turkey, could take around 30 minutes per pound.

Make sure your food is in a leak-proof package and submerge it completely in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to make sure it stays cold during the thawing process.

Fresh beef, veal, lamb, and pork

FAQ

Is beef still good after 2 years in freezer?

Poisonous microbes like bacteria are put into sleep mode by freezing. In simpler terms, it’s almost impossible for most frozen foods to ever become spoiled in a working freezer. So, from a food safety perspective, your two-year-old meat is good to go.

Does raw beef go bad in the freezer?

When it comes to most uncooked cuts of beef, you can freeze them for several months without sacrificing quality. According to the FDA , you can keep cuts, like roasts, frozen for anywhere from 4 to 12 months and steaks for 6 to 12 months. Ground beef should be frozen for no more than three to four months.

Is 3 year old frozen beef still good?

Food that is stored in a freezer at zero degrees will be safe to eat indefinitely. However, if meat is frozen too long it may lose quality and taste. If you are unsure if meat is still fresh, you can determine this once it has been thawed.

Does ground beef in the freezer go bad?

Ground beef can be frozen indefinitely, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, it is recommended to use ground beef within four months of freezing, as the quality of the meat will begin to deteriorate over time. Ground beef that has been frozen for too long may not be as flavorful.

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