Freezing Meat


• Before freezing, beef or lamb should be sufficiently aged, as meat does not continue to tenderise while frozen.

• Meat should be well trimmed (fat can become rancid on long storage).

• The ends of bones that may pierce the wrap should be shielded with foil or plastic before packaging.

• Frozen large cuts will keep better and longer, with less flavour change, than frozen smaller cuts, thin slices or mince.

• It is important to make sure temperatures don't fluctuate by more than 0.5° C. Big temperature changes can mean a partial thaw which damages the structure of the meat.


If at all possible, plan ahead when you intend on using frozen meat. The best way to maintain the quality of frozen meat is by slow thawing in the refrigerator. All it takes is a bit of time!

When you are thawing


• Ensure that liquid from the thawing meat does not drip onto and contaminate other foods. Thaw meat on a tray if there is a chance that packaging may leak.

• Thaw frozen meat in its original freezer wrapping.

• Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator or chiller for best results.

• Thawing meat at room temperature is not recommended. The surface of the meat may reach warm temperatures which encourages spoilage.

Approximate thawing times in the refrigerator

• Large roast: 4 - 7 hours per 500g

• Small roast: 3 - 5 hours per 500g

• Steak, 2.5cm thick: 12 - 14 hours

Thawing Options

If you need to hurry thawing there are some options. Leave the meat in its sealed freezer wrap or vacuum-pack for all the following "speed-thaw" methods:

• Place meat on a tray in a relatively cool room for one to two hours before completing thawing in the refrigerator.

• Use a microwave oven set on defrost.

• Place sealed vacuum-pack in a sink of cold running water. Note: the pack must be watertight.

Never place frozen meat, which is not in a sealed vacuum-pack, in water in an attempt to speed thawing. This will cause flavour and colour loss and may encourage bacterial growth.

Meat which has been thawed using a "speed-thaw" technique, should be cooked straight after thawing.

The best way to store thawed meat

• Remove freezer packaging or vacuum bag and blot meat dry with clean paper towels if necessary. Place meat on a tray (one with sides to prevent drip onto other foods). Loosely cover it and return to refrigerator

• Do not store raw meat above food that will not be cooked before it is eaten (for example, cooked meat, salad vegetables)

• Do not allow meat to sit in a pool of meat juices in the tray. The juices will go off faster than the meat itself and can taint the flavour of the meat
Thinly sliced meat will lose more liquid than large pieces. Slicing may introduce microorganisms onto meat surfaces, so it is best to cut slices or steaks shortly before cooking.

Avoid refreezing thawed meat

• Refreezing thawed meat is not recommended. Each time meat is frozen there is some deterioration of quality; the ice crystals tend to rupture the muscle fibre, breaking down texture and letting juices escape.

• Meat that has been partially thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen. It will be safe to eat, if not at its best eating quality.

• Never refreeze meat that has been thawed and held at room temperature.

• Do not expect poorly frozen, badly stored and roughly thawed meat to give top quality eating results.

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Information supplied by the New Zealand Beef and Lamb Marketing Bureau.
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