How to freeze and defrost uncooked meat and poultry safely

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Love Food
Hate Waste
What To Do
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Do you ever have those moments when you fancied a roast chicken at home but decided, last minute, to pop out for lunch instead? - then realised the uncooked chicken is still in your fridge uneaten. Or you planned to cook beef or some pork chops but didn’t need to cook the whole pack and wondered what to do with the uneaten meat left in the pack? An easy solution is to freeze it instead and save it for another day.

Freezing your food acts like a pause button, giving you more time to eat it and saving it from the bin. Not only does it lock in freshness and preserve quality and flavour, but it’s also perfectly safe providing it’s defrosted correctly. Your food won’t deteriorate in the freezer, and most bacteria can’t grow in it, so it’s a great way to buy yourself extra time and save delicious food for later!

Did you know that more than 200,000 tonnes of meat that could have been eaten is discarded every year from UK homes? - that’s more than 10% of purchases! In fact, by cost, meat is one of the most wasted foods from our homes which is particularly sad given the precious resources used to bring them to our homes and the high carbon impact of meat and poultry. 

 

Freezing meat and poultry

You can freeze food right up to its Use By date, so if you’ve had a last-minute dinner invitation and there’s a couple of chicken breasts sitting in the fridge that need using up today, just pop them in the freezer either in the original packaging or in an airtight container, to be enjoyed another day. Remember to add a label that includes what it is and the date you froze your food to make it easy for you to keep track of what you have.

It’s best to use up food in your freezer within 3 to 6 months, but it’s worth checking the packaging for any freezing guidelines specific to that product.

Defrosting meat and poultry

Many of us are a little unsure how to defrost meat and poultry, but there are two safe and super easy ways to defrost meat: in the microwave or in the fridge.

To defrost meat and poultry in the microwave

Defrosting your meat and poultry in the microwave is a quick and convenient option and it allows you to stay flexible with your meal plans. If you want to be spontaneous and use frozen meat right now, the microwave is your friend! 

Double check the packaging for microwave defrosting instructions like guidance on turning, stirring or standing times, for example. Otherwise, follow these simple steps:

  • If you froze your meat/poultry in its original packaging, remove the packaging.
  • Pop your meat/poultry on a microwave-safe plate and cover it with a non-metallic cover. 
  • Microwave using the ‘defrost’ setting or a meat/poultry defrosting programme directly before cooking.
  • Make sure your meat/poultry is fully thawed and always cook food that’s been defrosted in the microwave straightaway.

 

To defrost meat and poultry in the fridge

Firstly, make sure your fridge is set to 5℃ or below as this helps to keep your meat/poultry (and everything else in your fridge!) safe and fresher for longer. Then follow these steps:

  • Put your frozen meat/poultry at the bottom of the fridge, ideally 24 hours before you need it. 
  • Make sure you allow enough time for your food to defrost properly – don’t forget that large items (such as a Christmas turkey) can take up to four days to defrost fully in the fridge!
  • Once your food is completely defrosted, use within 24 hours.

 

Cooking with defrosted food  

The good news is that it doesn’t matter whether your meat or poultry was frozen or fresh before cooking: you can still use the leftovers to make a delicious new meal (such as a curry) which can then be frozen. If you’re reheating defrosted cooked meat or poultry, make sure it’s piping hot before serving and only reheat it once.

 

Making the most of your freezer

Freezing food is a great way to make sure all the food you buy gets used, and if you follow our simple steps, it will taste just as good as when it’s fresh! 

Finally, if you find you have more meat or poultry than you need, why not cook a batch of curry or Bolognese sauce. Roasted meat or poultry can be sliced up or divided into portions and frozen for delicious homemade ‘ready meals’ for future stress-free lunches or dinners. Take a look at our post on lunchbox leftovers for some more inspiration!

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