Freezing meat products is the best way to keep them fresh longer than their usual expiration date, which is especially handy if you're buying your meat in bulk. But just how long can meat stay frozen while still being safe to eat?
Well, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, any food stored at exactly 0°F is safe to eat indefinitely. So you can store your meat for as long as you like, as long as it stays at that temperature. The reasoning behind this, according to the USDA, is that keeping food frozen "prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness."
But it's important to note that this rule applies for meat stored at exactly 0°F without fluctuation, and it must be uniformly frozen at that temperature to keep harmful bacteria away. The process of thawing and refreezing can disrupt the bacteria and mold that naturally grow in aging food, allowing them to multiply when the temperature rises enough.
Although properly cooking and then eating food that had stayed frozen at 0°F for years won't necessarily get you sick, you may not exactly like how it tastes. So the USDA recommends tossing uncooked roasts, steaks, and chops after a year in the freezer, and uncooked ground meat after just 4 months. Meanwhile, frozen cooked meat should go after 3 months.
Another thing to keep in mind: While expired frozen meat may look okay to eat, the safest way to make sure you're not eating food beyond the recommended timeline is to write the expiration date on meat before you put it in the freezer. This will keep yourself and the other carnivores in your family safe from food-borne illnesses.
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