I used to always question whether or not the food I had stored in the fridge was safe to eat, especially as it relates to meats. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to see any food go to waste, but I don’t want to take the risk of eating something unsafe either. So, I did a little research to clear things up. Here’s what I learned:
RAW ground beef, seafood, variety meats and poultry: Up to 2 days
RAW steaks, roasts and chops: Up to 4 days
COOKED meats: About 4 days
RAW chicken or turkey: Up to 12 months
RAW hamburger and other ground meats: Up to 4 months
RAW beef, veal, lamb and pork: Up to 12 months
RAW seafood, depending on the type of fish (leaner fish will last longer): Up to 6 months
COOKED and then frozen meats: About 4 months
FREEZER STORAGE 101
Changes in taste & quality. Food will last significantly longer while stored in the freezer. Foods that have been stored in the freezer are more likely to have diminished quality and taste rather than have a safety issue. Freezer storage can change the texture, color, moisture content and aroma of a food after an extended period of time. However, these changes will not affect the nutritional content.
Best practices. This can be preventable to an extent with the proper storage containers. I have found that freezer bags work better than containers for storing foods, because air is less likely to seep in and they take up less space in the freezer. I also recommend marking the date on your freezer bags, so you can keep track of when you placed them in the freezer.
Freezer burn. Is your meat grayish or white in color with a leathery texture in some spots? Your food is probably freezer burnt. But have no fear—freezer burn is just air and moisture that has come in contact with the meat. This can be cut off before or after cooking. If the meat is freezer burnt, there is no safety issue. It’s just a change in taste and texture.
Thawing. When you are ready to thaw your meats from the freezer, the USDA recommends doing so in a microwave, in the fridge or in cold water. I cook my chicken while frozen in a Crock-pot. I just add water to the Crock-pot and cook on medium for about 6 hours. This is convenient for me, because I do not have to worry about thawing the chicken. I can just throw it in the Crock-pot and forget about it for a few hours.
ROOM TEMPERATURE MEATS
Ok, how about room temperature meats? How long do these last? If you’re like me, you take foods with you while traveling. Most everyone knows to freeze their cooked meats (and maybe veggies too) the night before departing and pack with ice packs. But, what if you have a long flight? Or what if your flight is delayed? Your food starts to thaw, so what do you do? The clock is ticking. Once your meat has reached room temperature, it will last around 2 hours. The time it takes to reach room temperature will depend on how well it was ice-packed, the temperature at which it is thawing and how large the piece of meat is.
I hope this information helps you to waste less. It’s a shame that we Americans throw away so much of it. Some people in the world are starving, while so many of us are carelessly wasting food. Keep track of your food storage, and if you have too much of it, give it away to someone who will eat it. Even if that means your pet!