For years I have been purchasing freezer beef. Nothing gives me more pleasure then reaching into that freezer for a steak, or roast, or some hamburger — knowing it was locally raised and packed fresh and frozen from our local butcher.
Having that kind of access to entrees means less trips to the store, and I’d rather visit the freezer then get frozen outside this time of year.
But, like most you with the option of having a freezer comes the indulgence of over freezing stuff and letting it sit there for months maybe years … yes, I said years.
Growing up, we could barely keep ice in the freezer, let alone pack it with enough stuff that would last longer then a couple of weeks. I do remember Mom declaring it was “DEFROST THE FREEZER” time — man the buckets and the towels. Defrosting the freezer was always an experience. And almost every time there was something packed in that ice we forgot about — like a bag of vegetables that nobody wanted, or a stray summer Popsicle, or that leftover stew that Martha brought over (that nobody ate) that she then insisted be frozen — for a later death, I mean meal (which was usually thawed and given to the dog).
Today, when it’s time to re-stock the freezer with a new order of beef, I usually have to purge what is left of the previous order. And normally there are some things I choose to just keep — regardless of the date. There are always a few steaks that get left back because I’m thinking I’ll get to those the next time I grill. But then the older stock simply gets stuck there because I’ll always choose from the most recently frozen stock.
And so it happened, I was out of new stock steak. But there, in the back of the freezer was the old steak. How old you ask? Not one, not two, but almost three-years-old!
What to do?
What to do?
I’m a guy — a carnivore — what do you think I did — I thawed it out, seasoned it up, and grilled that baby — and badda-boom-badda-bing, it was fantastic!
So I did some research, like every guy, after the fact, and came across this little nugget of truth — According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, any food stored at exactly 0°F is safe to eat indefinitely.
(Cue the heavenly angles singing “alleluia”!)
You may not want to be as daring as me so here are some basic recommendations for freezing meats — Red meat and pork can remain in the refrigerator up to five days and can be frozen for four to 12 months. Leftover cooked meat will last three to four days in the refrigerator and two to six months in the freezer. Ground meats (beef, veal, pork, or poultry) can be refrigerated for one to two days and frozen for three to four months.
Since product dates aren’t a guide for safe use of a product, consult chart and follow tips available at the FDA website. Short but safe time limits will help keep refrigerated food 40° F (4° C) from spoiling or becoming dangerous.
• Purchase the product before “sell-by” or expiration dates.
• Follow handling recommendations on product.
• Keep meat and poultry in its package until just before using.
• If freezing meat and poultry in its original package longer than 2 months, over-wrap these packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper, or place the package inside a plastic bag. Because freezing 0° F (-18° C) keeps food safe indefinitely, following FDA recommended storage times are for quality only.
Chill out and use that freezer — it’s there for a reason. And don’t be afraid of what’s in there … unless of course it’s Aunt Martha’s stew.
Here’s seeing you, in Ohio Country!
The writer is an award-winning veteran broadcaster for more than 30 years.