How long can I keep meat in the freezer for?
Tim Maddams gives his tips
Q: I recently cleared out my freezer ready for the season ahead and I found some venison from 2015. Do you think it will be OK to eat?
A:I know the feeling. Despite attempting to keep things orderly in the home freezer, it can be tricky keeping track. I highly recommend a vacuum packer for any freezing you are planning and a good marker pen — labels seem to drop off in the freezer, never to be seen again. Though the odd game of freezer roulette is entertaining, it can be annoying when you have a specific recipe in mind or are short of time.
Meat in freezer safety
From a safety point of view, it’s important not to poison yourself. The Food Standards Agency offers little advice on the subject but it does state: “The cold temperatures of a domestic freezer (-18°C) delay chemical reactions within foods and put any bacteria that may be present on pause.
“The bacteria are still alive, but they stop growing or producing toxins, in effect pausing reactions. The important thing to remember is that because the bacteria haven’t been killed, they may be revived as the food defrosts.
“Make sure the food never enters the danger zone because the bacteria may grow and make you ill. This is why you should defrost food within a fridge. It is also the reason why we advise that foods can’t be refrozen if they are accidentally defrosted, unless they are first cooked. If the food has been defrosted it must be cooked before being eaten to be safe. Once defrosted, foods should be treated as if they are fresh and consumed within two days.”
Packaging and labelling
For me it is all about packaging — if you store things well wrapped in the freezer, with no or very little air in the packaging, things keep exceptionally well. If you simply pop them in the deep freeze poorly wrapped, or if the packaging gets damaged, the meat will begin to get freezer burn, and freezer- burned meat is not the ideal gastronomical prospect.
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Cautiously, I would advise that there is no real upper limit to how long raw meat can remain frozen and still be good to eat, provided that it was fresh, clean and well packaged at the time or freezing and the freezing temperature has been maintained.