Don’t stress, you can freeze fresh meat
We get asked lots of questions about freezing and defrosting meats, particularly mince meat. Never fear, Lillian Murphy, our helpline expert, has all the answers you need.
Can I freeze mince that I bought in the butchers or supermarket?
Yes you can. Just be sure to freeze it before it goes past the 'Use By' date. Remember, when it comes to dates on food, 'Use By' is a deadline and 'Best Before' is a guideline.
Can I cook it straight from the freezer?
No. You will need to defrost it in the fridge before you cook it. Always defrost raw meat on a bottom shelf away from ready-to-eat foods. And make sure you defrost it completely before cooking.
Same for poultry: be sure it is completely thawed before you cook it. If poultry is still partly frozen, it will be slower to cook and might not reach a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria.
You can check if the meat feels frozen by using a fork or skewer.
When defrosting a whole bird, make sure there are no ice crystals in the cavity. Allow at least 24 hours for every 2 - 2.5Kg (4 - 5lbs). It is not safe to defrost at room temperature.
If I defrost raw meat can I cook it and refreeze it?
Yes. If you defrost raw meat and then cook it, for example if you make a cottage pie, you can freeze it. Again, when you want to use it, make sure you defrost it correctly and reheat it until it’s piping hot the whole way through. But remember, never reheat it more than once.
I made a lasagne from raw meat that I had defrosted from my freezer but we didn’t eat it all. Can I freeze it again or put it into the fridge? Or do I have to throw it out?
You can either freeze the lasagne or put it into your fridge within 2 hours of cooking it. To help it cool, divide the food into smaller portions. Use a clean, covered dish to prevent cross-contamination.
If you put it into your fridge it must be eaten with three days. So if you need to keep it for longer than three days, freezing is a better option. Remember freezing food when hot will raise the temperature of the freezer and could cause other foods to start defrosting.
It’s important to seal your food properly or it could get “freezer-burn”. This means that water escapes from the food and moves to the coldest part of the freezer – leaving your food dehydrated. This affects the quality of the food only so it is still safe to eat. Freezing in small portions means you can take out the quantity you need.
Labelling food, ingredients and date means you will remember what the food is and when you froze it. A good tip is to use a blue marker for raw foods and a red marker for cooked foods.