How to Store and Freeze Meat, Poultry and Game

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Meat-Poultry-and-Game_cMoney and shopping time may be saved by the storage of meat, poultry and game, both fresh and cooked, in the freezer. Meat may be bought in bulk from a local butcher or specialist supplier. But it is worth remembering that the purchase of a whole carcase may not be an economy if certain cuts are rarely used in the household.


Money and shopping time may be saved by the storage of meat, poultry and game, both fresh and cooked, in the freezer. Meat may be bought in bulk from a local butcher or specialist supplier. But it is worth remembering that the purchase of a whole carcase may not be an economy if certain cuts are rarely used in the household; the saving on legs, shoulders or loins may be offset by the quantities of cheaper cuts which may not be popular with the family, and which take time and trouble to prepare. It is better to assess one's needs carefully, and invest in bulk supplies of joints, individual steaks and chops or cheaper meat prepared for pies and stews.

Many butchers feel that meat should only be prepared by deep freezing, which is not possible under home conditions, but the home freezer can certainly be used if care is taken, and if only small quantities are prepared at a time.

Quality of meat

Meat for freezing must be of high quality, and must have been hung for the required time. Nothing will improve the texture or flavour of poor meat, though tender meat can become a little more tender in storage. Pork and veal are normally only chilled before freezing; beef is aged for eight to ten days, and lamb for five to seven days.

Preparation for freezing

Meat for freezing should if possible be boned. Surplus fat should be removed, and the meat prepared in the form in which it is to be cooked. If a lot of meat is to be prepared at one time, begin by freezing offal, then pork, then veal and lamb, and finally beef which will keep best under normal refrigeration if delays occur-No more than 4 lbs of meat for each cubic foot of freezer space should be frozen at one time.

Bad packing is responsible for many of the faults which cause criticism of frozen meat. Wrapping should be strong so that oxygen does not penetrate and affect the fat which causes rancidity (pork is particularly subject to this problem). Overwrapping will prevent damage to packages, and bones should be padded with greaseproof paper to prevent them piercing the wrappings. Air must be completely excluded so that the freezer wrapping stays close to the meat and prevents drying out.

Thawing frozen meat

Experiments continue on cooking meat direct from the freezer, but so far the methods used do not produce perfect results. Slow, even thawing is required, and meat is best thawed in its wrappings in a refrigerator; partial or complete thawing helps retain juiciness. Thin cuts of meat and minced meat toughen if cooked from the frozen state, and offal must be completely thawed.

Allow 5 hours per lb in a refrigerator and 2 hours per lb at room temperature for thawing meat; for offal, sausages and mince, allow 3 hours in a refrigerator and 1 1/2 hours at room temperature. If meat is to be cooked from the frozen state, un-thawed large cuts will take 1 1/2 times as long as fresh ones to cook, and smaller thin ones will take 1 1/4 times as long.

Cooking frozen meat

Meat should be cooked as soon as it has thawed, while it is still cold, to prevent loss of juices. The same methods as for cooking fresh meat should be used. Chops and steaks cook best in a thick frying pan lightly oiled, starting with gentle heat on both sides before browning more quickly. Joints are best cooked by a slow oven method if still chilled (300°F or Gas Mark 2 for beef and lamb; 350°F or Gas Mark 4 for pork).

Preparing and packing poultry

Poultry should be in perfect condition, starved for 24 hours before killing, hung and bled well. Skin damage when plucking should be avoided, and scalding will increase the chance of freezer burn. A bird should be cooled in a refrigerator for 12 hours before freezing, and be drawn and completely clean.

Whole birds should be trussed neatly, or it may be more convenient to freeze halves or joints. Bones should be padded with greaseproof paper to avoid damage to packaging. Joints should be divided by cellophane for easy separation. Air must be completely removed so that the wrapping fits closely to the bird. Giblets and livers should be packaged separately, and stuffing should be omitted.

Thawing poultry

Poultry should be thawed in its unopened freezer wrapping, and this is best done in the refrigerator to give slow even thawing. Flavour will be better if bird is completely thawed before cooking. A 4- 5 lb chicken will thaw overnight in a refrigerator or in 4 hours at room temperature. A turkey of 9 lbs will take 36 hours to thaw, while a large bird may take as much as three days; for practical purposes a cool room is generally the best place for thawing such a large bird. A thawed bird may be stored up to 24 hours in a refrigerator, but no more.

Preparing and packing game

Young and well-shot game birds, hares and rabbits may be frozen in the raw state. Old or badly-shot game is best cooked before freezing. Game must be cooled and hung to the required state before freezing; for practical purposes it should also be plucked or skinned, and drawn if this is part of the normal preparation.

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